strike off meaning – struggle of MSRTC workers !
strike off meaning – inspiration to workers across the country.
AMAB salutes the struggle of MSRTC workers !
As the government, judiciary and the media collude to suppress the strike, the heroic resistance of the 96,000 MSRTC
workers is serving as an inspiration to workers across the country.
In a climate of increasing repression on workers across the country where the slightest expression of dissent is being use to
jail workers indefinitely under draconian laws such as UAPA, the incredible 21 day strike of MSRTC workers, in defiance of court orders,
comes as a breath of fresh air for the working class across the country.
What started as a refusal by the rank and file workers of only 2 of the 24 unions to accept a compromise reached
by the biggest unions with the State Government on October 27th has snowballed into a state-wide movement involving
all of the 250 depots and forced the unions into an indefinite strike on November 3rd and has continued with great resilience since then.
The main demands of the workers are simple: timely payment of wages and merger of the Maharashtra State Road Transport
Corporation with the State Government, so that the workers are recognize as State Government employees
and given the same status (job security) and benefits as other such employees. The drivers, conductors and administrative staff of MSRTC,
many of whom have been working for decades, earn salaries between ₹14,000 and ₹25,000, payments of which are delay
routinely for months together. As of today, the pending salaries of MSRTC workers run into ₹700 Crore. In the past year and a half,
economic hardships, exacerbated by such delays, have resulted in 37 MSRTC workers committing suicide.
Similar to BEST, the MSRTC has been complaining for the past several years of heavy “losses”,
(one report estimated that a monthly “loss” of ₹400 Crores) and has used this narrative to regularly increase fares,
(in October this year, fares on all routes were hike by an average of 17%), “monetizing” its land
(by selling it to private oil companies to set up fuel stations) and culling “loss-making” long distance routes
(around 50 routes in Vidarbha were stop in 2016, 45 more in 2017 and at least 23 more in 2018).
The question however, as in the case of BEST, how can a public service be operated for profit in the first place?
Does it make sense to ask how much “loss” the Kendriya Vidyalayas are in? Should we privatize all State government
hospitals if their “cost recovery” is less than 45%? Should we convert the ground floor of Tata Memorial Hospital
into a four star hotel to offset some of the chemotherapy costs? Media organizations which pump out articles on a daily
basis about the private lives of billionaires and Bollywood celebrities have suddenly decided they care about “inconveniences”
faced by rural populations as a result of stoppage of MSRTC services. And why is that it is that only services
which serve the poor that are targets of such narratives? Why do we never ask how much “losses” the Indian Administrative
Service or the Indian Army make? How much “loss” is the Bombay High Court in? Indeed,
instead of judges, why not have “justice partners” “powered by” Vimal Elaichi and Lux Cozi.
The MSRTC, like the BEST, is of course proceeding according to an old the textbook of privatization.
First, a well-functioning public entity is taken, is preferably made “autonomous” (converted into a corporation)
and is slowly deprived of funds. Control is centralized and its functions made excessively bureaucratic,
rendering it more and more inefficient. Resentment of workers and the public is allowed to increase,
a narrative is built up about “mounting losses” “bleeding” the public entity until a final crisis,
manufactured or natural (such as COVID) is used to ram through abrupt measures which handover
public assets nurtured over decades into private hands.
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