Soon after returning to power in Haryana, the Bharatiya Janata Party government in the state has locked horns with the staff of the state’s roadways department – again. Haryana’s Transport Minister Mool Chand Sharma formally rolled out a fleet of buses outsourced under the kilometre scheme, earlier last week. Opposing the move, the employees’ union have now announced a two-day strike beginning from January 7, The Indian Express reported on Friday.
The scheme, from its very inception, drew strong opposition from the Haryana Roadways Employees Union (HRWU). On October 16 last year, well over 20,000 roadways workers had gone on a strike, which lasted for 18 days.
First introduced in 2018 and now set to be implemented, the KM scheme allows the state government to hire private buses which will then run on certain identified routes. Under the scheme, the private operator would be paid on the kilometre basis. As many as “150 buses would be on the roads soon,” in the first phase of the scheme, Times of India quoted transport minister Sharma as saying.
The scheme poses two major fears in front of the agitating transport workers. First, pertaining to the job security of thousands of roadways employees. As reported earlier by NewsClick, barring the post of the conductor, every other operation have been outsourced.
“As many as six job opportunities are created when maintenance of a bus operating under the transport department is carried out,” HRWU state president Inder Singh Badhana told NewsClick. Calling the scheme as providing “half employments”, Badhana fears that the newly outsourced worker will earn less and receive no social allowance, hence, making it difficult for them to keep the fire in the hearth burning.
Another concern is of the agenda behind the implementation of the kilometre scheme by the Haryana government, which according to the staff body, is to eventually privatise the state’s transport service.
“The Haryana Roadways currently ply to serve the people. Under the kilometre scheme, profit making motive will be the prime worry. The bus operating under the scheme won’t provide concessions to different categories of people who currently enjoy affordable travelling options,” Badhana said.
However, none of these worries the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government which decided to introduce the scheme on December 27 last year in “hurry”, as claimed by the employees’ union, despite the matter pending in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
The workers staged a state-wide demonstration on December 28, to oppose the scheme. Twenty-nine workers, including union president Badhana himself, were detained during the protest, he told NewsClick.
In addition to this, the roadways workers are also demanding scrapping of New Pension Scheme (NPS). Similar to the last year’S strike, the union hopes to draw massive support from workers of all sections of society. Various other employees’ union active in the state have extended their support to the two-day strike of the roadways workers this year, pressing for their long pending demand of regularisation of contract workers.
The two-day strike of the Haryana Roadways workers will coincide with the January 8 general strike called by ten central trade unions and grameen bandh called by hundreds of farmers’ organisations.