The strike of Haryana Roadways workers led by the Roadways Workers Coordination Action Committee was temporarily halted on 16th November after intervention by the Haryana-Chandigarh High Court. The workers had been on strike since 16th October, demanding that the proposal of the government to privatise Haryana Roadways should be revoked.
On 1st November 2018, the Haryana-Chandigarh High Court gave its hearing after taking cognition of the strike. The strike was halted after the court gave orders to release arrested leaders of the strike and assured the striking workers that they would not be investigated under ESMA. The court recommended that both the Roadways Workers Coordination Action Committee and the state government should meet on 12th November to negotiate a resolution to the issue. The court has also said that it is willing to hear the demands of the Roadways workers.
This strike lasted for 18 days and it has been the longest one till date in the Haryana Transport Corporation. One strike in 1979 had lasted for 11 days. Prior to 16th October 2018, unions had held many symbolic strikes to express their anger against the government’s privatisation proposal and to demand that the decision be reversed. But the government has remained adamant and did not pay heed to the demands of workers. Hence after 22nd October, the strike turned into an indefinite one. Workers from other public sectors held demonstrations and went on strike in support of the struggle of Haryana Roadways workers. Farmers have also shown tremendous support to the workers’ strike against this anti-people move of the government.
It is to be noted that the Government of Haryana is trying to ply 700 private buses at a higher rate under the kilometre scheme. Unions estimate that around 500 public buses are lying idle and rusting because of the shortage of drivers at the depot. They are questioning why these 500 buses are not being used by the government instead of renting out private buses.
The unions have been staunchly fighting through joint action for a very long time against privatisation of the Haryana Public Transport Corporation. During this ongoing struggle, on 13th June 2017, the government had to recall its transport policy for 2016-17 in its negotiation with the unions. Apart from this, on 27th December 2017, the government also had to come to an agreement on the 16-point charter of demands of workers. The demands were – permanent recruitment in the workshop, hiring of drivers, expanding the fleet of public buses, giving permanent status to all workers hired between 1979 and 2002, filling posts at all levels through promotions etc. However, this agreement has not been implemented till date.
In every state, the public transport system has been set up by using people’s money. It is the duty of the state to provide efficient, reliable and environmentally friendly modern transport to people at an affordable price. However, the state is shirking this responsibility. Governments are instead trying to hand over these enterprises to capitalists, so that capitalists can earn profits by charging people higher rates instead of providing affordable transport services. Workers and peasants are opposing this move.
Privatisation of public transport corporations is an anti-people step. The Roadways Coordination Action Committee must be congratulated for its brave struggle demanding recall of and opposing the proposed decision of the state government to privatise Haryana Roadways