Millions of people across Karnataka were stranded Friday, as state-run bus services remained crippled for the second day owing to indefinite strike by about 110,000 employees of various transport corporations in the state over steep wage hike and other demands.
In cities and towns across the state, especially in Bangalore, Mysore, Mangalore, Hubli, Belgaum and Gulbarga, thousands of intra-state and inter-state passengers had a harrowing time in finding alternative modes of transport.
With negotiations between the employees’ unions and the state government not able to break the deadlock late Thursday, state police had a tough time in maintaining law and order.
Stray incidents of violence, including private buses being stoned and public property being damaged by miscreants, were reported from various parts of the state. In Bangalore, about four million commuters dependent on public transport were the worst affected. These included students and office-goers.
Thousands of techies, who use chartered and Volvo buses of the state-run Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) for commuting to their offices, faced a tough time.
Even the state-run Bangalore Metro Rail Transport Corporation (BMRTC), which operates on a 7.5 km stretch from the eastern suburb to M.G. Road in the city centre, could not be of much help as its services are not available in other areas of the city.
Thousands of passengers arriving in Bangalore by trains, private buses or other state-run buses were fleeced by drivers of auto rickshaws and taxis.
Absence of public transport also resulted into massive traffic jams on main thoroughfares across the city.
Hundreds of passengers were stranded at the Bangalore international airport since early Friday after about 2,000 cab drivers went on a flash strike over a scuffle between taxi operators and traffic police at Devanahalli.
About 9,500 buses of the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC), North West Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (NWKRTC) and North East Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (NEKRTC) are off the road.
After Transport Department Principal Secretary P. Ravi Kumar ruled out more than 10 percent increase in salaries and refused other demands during the talks, the employees’ unions joint committee decided to continue their indefinite strike.
“We are outraged at the indifference of Deputy Chief Minister R. Ashoka, who holds the transport portfolio, in meeting our long-standing demands and going back on his word to address our grievances,” employees’ joint committee representative H.V. Anantha Suburao told reporters here Friday.
Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar, however, appealed to the employees to call off their strike and resume duty as people were facing difficulty in commuting. “The road transport corporations have the responsibility of providing public transport. As they offer a public utility service, they have to ensure uninterrupted service in the interest of the public,” Shettar said in a statement.