Amritsar, September 20
Passengers faced inconvenience as the Punjab Roadways, PUNBUS, PRTC Contractual Workers Union and Mini-bus Operators’s Union went on strike today to impress upon the government to accept their long-pending demands.
Although the contractual workers union called off their protest at 3 pm, the state-run buses started plying only after 5 pm. Long-route evening buses for Chandigarh, Delhi, Jammu, Ganganagar and other places departed at their scheduled time.
Loss of government-run buses was a gain for private buses, which recorded high footfall of passengers. Commuters at the Shaheed Madan Lal Dhingra Inter-State Bus Terminal (ISBT) said private bus operators raked in moolah as women passengers queued outside their buses.
Passengers vied with each other to secure a seat in private buses. They have been preferring government buses over private ones since the introduction of free travel for women passengers.
Kewal Singh, president, Amritsar Depot I, Punjab Roadways, PUNBUS, PRTC Contractual Workers Union, said the staff of the state-run buses was on strike and staged a protest at the workshop here today. He said the strike was withdrawn in the afternoon after the government gave a five per cent hike in their salary and reinstated at least 500 employees, who were fired from job for different reasons recently, and gave the union an appointment to meet Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann on September 29.
He said their main demands were regularisation of 800 contractual workers and hiring of 3,500 outsourced employees on contract. On the other hand, members of the Mini-bus Operators’s Union staged a protest at Kaleyan Wala village, near Choggawan, and blocked vehicular traffic.
The union members protested against the government for not fulfilling their demands, including renewal of permit of their vehicles and extending free-of-cost travel facility for women passengers offered in private buses to mini-buses in order to give their owners an equal opportunity for earning.
Baldev Singh Babbu, union president, said if the government did not listen to their demands, they would be forced to intensify their protest. He said wrong policies of the government were the reason behind reduction of employment opportunities in the sector. He recalled that 650 mini-buses used to ply on roads during the nineties. Now, their number had gone down to 250.
Previous governments cancelled permits of hundreds of mini-buses, he said. Recently, the state government stopped plying of 35 mini-buses on the Lopoke area route, he added.
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