Thiruvananthapuram: Even as every nook and corner of the State celebrates Onam with feasts, festivities and floral carpets, it is heart-wrenching to see about a quarter lakh KSRTC employees and their families struggle to meet their day-to-day expenses.
Their hopes of getting salary dues of two months at least for Onam also seem to be fading away. The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) has now decided to disburse 33 per cent of the pending dues utilising Rs 50 crore allotted by the Government and Rs 10 crore in hand. This would come to about 70 per cent of the monthly salary. The pay distribution would begin on Monday.
The Corporation said a coupon worth Rs 5,000 from Civil Supplies Corporation would be given to meet the Onam needs. Besides, arrangements would be made to purchase from ConsumerFed for Rs 5,000, Horticorp for Rs 2,000, and Hanveev and Hantex for Rs 2,500 each. This amount would be deducted from the pending dues while settling the pay later.
However, cutting across party affiliations, said they were not ready to accept coupons in place of their pending salary. Joint Council, an association affiliated with the CPI, said giving food coupons in lieu of salary is equivalent to insulting the employees.
Crisis for Onam advance also
An attempt to give a salary advance of Rs 20,000 each for Onam has been stalled due to objections from the Kerala Transport Development Finance Corporation (KTDFC).
The State Bank of India had agreed to give Rs 75 crore for paying Onam advance to the KSRTC employees. As part of the process, all banks and financial institutions which have lent money to the KSRTC were told to raise objections if they had any. Only the Government-owned KTDFC objected. Now, the Onam advance can only be paid if the KTDFC gives a nod.
All hopes pinned on Monday’s meeting
A favourable decision is expected to emerge during the meeting chaired by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday. If the single duty system is approved, Rs 250 crore rescue package could be allotted to the KSRTC. Although the discussion on the same had happened three times earlier, no decision has been made yet.
Employees to call a lightning strike if discussion fails
Meanwhile, KSRTC employees have called for a lightning strike from midnight on Monday at Kottayam if the discussion with the Chief Minister fails.
A special WhatsApp group has been formed to coordinate the protest and it has been decided to form a joint agitation committee to take the stir further.
The employees would hold a hunger strike in front of the depot along with their families. Even bedridden parents would be brought to the protest venue. Employees said they would continue the agitation until there is a favourable decision.
A protest feast, where soil would be served, has also be arranged on Thiruvonam day, the employees said.
During the meeting, the employees decided to demand the settling of all their salary dues. If the demand is not accepted by the Government, a flash strike would be held. Some staff suggested that employees from other districts too would follow suit.
As per law, trade unions cannot hold a protest without giving a 15-day prior notice. In this situation, the employees have decided to strike in their personal capacities and not as part of any union.
A protest by a group of employees, who had reached the depot along with their families recently, had gained attention.
The employees said that if the Government cannot pay their dues even for Onam, they are not ready to do anymore ‘free’ work.