Maharashtra’s ‘Lal Pari’ At Halt As Employees Demand Government Merger

The State-run bus service in Maharashtra, lovingly called as Lal Pari (the red angel) by the commuters, was nowhere to be seen on the streets on Monday.

Thousands of passengers were unable to travel to their hometowns and villages in Western state of Maharashtra on Monday after the end of Diwali, as the workers of Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) intensified their strike that’s been going on for some time now. The MSRTC workers’ union announced that not a single bus would drive out of any of the depots from Sunday 12 AM. Commuters dependent on public transport for travel had to face harrowing time as they tried to catch any other possible means of travel to reach their destinations.

According to latest reports, 92% of the MSRTC employees have gone on strike until their demands are not accepted.

What are their demands?

The Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) is the state run bus service of Maharashtra which serves routes to towns and cities within Maharashtra as well as to its adjoining states with a fleet strength of 18,449 buses with over 8.7 million daily ridership.


State transport (ST) bus. (Representative image)


The cash-strapped MSRTC employees are on strike demanding the merger of the corporation with the state government to avail the benefits of being government employees.

Though the demand for the merger was long pending, the delay in payment of salaries due to the Covid-induced lockdown and the suicide of over 30 employees triggered a spontaneous agitation in late October.

Strike intensifies

Though the MSRTC workers began their strike on October 27, majority of them resumed work after the Maharashtra government accepted most of their demands. However, the issue of the merger of the MSRTC remained unresolved.

Owing to the unannounced strike since October 28, buses in several cities were unavailable during the festive season making it difficult for citizens to travel and had to face overcharging by the private transporters.

According to the sources in the unions, around 129 depots were not operational in the state on Sunday and over 40 per cent of bus services had to be cancelled due to the strike, The Indian Express reported.

The reports on Monday, however, indicated that the state-wide strike intensified with 92% of bus services disrupted due to the strike. This came on a day when the Bombay High Court was scheduled to hear the matter.

Matter In Bombay HC

After it rebuked section of employees for continuing their strike in earlier hearing, the Bombay HC today showed intent to fast-track the matter.


The employees of the MSRTC on a strike at Swargate bus depot in Pune on Sunday. (Himanshu Mukerjee/ Mid-day)


The HC directed the Maharashtra government to issue Government Resolution (GR) notifying formation of committee to look into grievance of MSRTC employees to be treated as government employees by 3 PM.

Noting that it was a serious issue, a vacation bench of justices SJ Kathawalla and SP Tavade also directed that the committee hold its first meeting today itself at 4 pm and submit Minutes of the Meeting to the court by 5 pm.

Gunaratan Sadavarte, advocate for the employees said that the employees were not willing to end the strike till the GR is issued and the first meeting is held.

Once the Minutes of Meeting reaches the court and all the concerned advocates go through it, “the unions representing the employees of MSRTC shall forthwith withdraw the strike/agitation and resume their duties”, the court said.

Maharashtra government issues GR

Issuing the GR as directed by the Bombay HC, the Maharashtra government on Monday afternoon announced a three-member committee headed by the Chief Secretary. In addition to the Chief Secretary, the committee includes the Additional Chief Secretary of the Department of Finance and Transport.


Maharashtra government GR laying down process for discussion of MSRTC merger.


The committee will hear the views of all 28 unions as well as the employees of the corporation. It will submit a report to the Chief Minister stating the issues raised and its views. The government has instructed the committee to complete the process within 12 weeks from November 8. The government has also directed the committee that the High Court be informed about the committee’s hearing within every 15 days.

Transport minister on strike and demands

Meanwhile, Maharashtra transport minister Anil Parab, after the HC’s direction, said his government will follow the procedure laid out by the court.

“This committee will analyse the pros and cons of the demands of merger by the MSRTC employees and hand over its report to the government of Maharashtra,” Mr Parab said.

Answering a question on hardships faced by common commuters because of the strike, Mr Parab said: “That was entirely the reason why we decided to immediately follow the instructions of the Hon High Court. We told the High Court that in order to not let commuters face harrowing times, we would immediately issue the GR, and we have done so.”

Mr Parab highlighted that the state government is working to find an amicable solution to the problems of MSRTC employees as well as common commuters and hopes that the strike will be withdrawn soon.

Adv Sadavarte for MSRTC employees

Advocate Gunaratna Sadavarte, who represented the MSRTC employees’ unions in the Bombay HC during the Monday hearing, threw some light on what happened inside the court.

“90% of the MSRTC employees are not working today. 35 of our brethren working for MSRTC have died of suicide. These employees have today received their first form of justice. The court has ordered the state government to consider their demand for merger and respond back by 5 PM today,” Adv Sadavarte said.

“The government told the court that one of their officers was in US or somewhere else where there could be night. The court asked the government to “wake him up” and explain the seriousness of the matter in which many have lost their lives. The court ordered that it was important to have the first meeting today,” Adv Sadavarte said.

“We told the court how Andhra Pradesh and Telangana government had merged the corporations with the state governments and similarly, the Uddhav Thackeray government should also follow the lead. We intend to continue the strike until a decision is made,” warned the lawyer representing the Lal Pari‘s servants.

However, at the time of this story being prepared, the MSRTC unions had not officially withdrawn the strike.

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