Thousands of commuters suffer as Haryana Roadways staff strike work

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Chandigarh : Thousands of commuters faced inconvenience or were forced to cancel their travel plans as Haryana Roadways staff struck work on Tuesday to press their demands.

As inter-city public transport services were badly affected, people were forced to pay higher or even exorbitant fares to operators of private buses and taxis to reach their destinations.

Transport Minister Krishan Lal Panwar warned that services of drivers still on probation will be terminated if they joined the strike.

He claimed that the state government is taking all possible steps, including operation of more buses on different routes, to ensure that commuters did not face difficulties.

Panwar said he had held a meeting with union leaders 15 days ago, wherein 33 of their 34 demands were accepted and the employee leader had even thanked Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar for the gesture.

The striking staff are opposing the alleged move to privatise public transport services, which the Minister denied.

"There is no proposal to privatise roadways services. Apart from government buses, 950 buses of cooperative societies are plying smoothly in the state at present. I am in constant touch with officers. The state government is making concerted efforts to ensure that people do not face inconvenience," the Minister said.

As for roadways staff's fears that the state will hire 720 buses and privatise the Transport Department, Panwar clarified: "Drivers of 720 buses to be hired will be deputed by bus owners whereas conductors will be deployed by the department. Permits will be issued by the Transport Department and the General Managers concerned will have full control over them."

"The sale of tickets will be done by the department. Therefore, the question of privatisation does not arise," he added.

He said that the decision to hire buses was taken by the state Cabinet in the interest of passengers.

"Under this scheme, 53 transporters had approached the department. About 33 lakh persons avail of transport facility daily in the state. The Transport Department services only 12.5 lakh persons. There is need to run about thousands of buses every day, but the state is unable to purchase such a large number of buses at one go," the Minister said.

"The Haryana Roadways has a fleet of 4,100 buses. The state government added 600 buses to the fleet in 2017-18 and decided to add 650 more during 2018-19. The Chief Minister has approved this proposal and the matter will now be sent to a High-Power Purchase Committee."

Panwar said every year about 250 to 300 buses were junked after remaining on road for seven years or after covering eight lakh kilometres.