Bengaluru: An indefinite strike by 1.23-lakh employees of the state-run road transport corporations on Monday paralysed bus services across Karnataka, with this tech hub being the worst hit.
The striking employees are demanding higher wages.
Though the state government declared a two-day holiday for schools and colleges from Monday to spare students from the fallout, thousands of commuters were stranded in cities and towns as alternative service by private operators was woefully adequate to ferry them on the week's first working day.
"About 120 buses, including 65 in Bengaluru were damaged in stone-throwing incidents after drivers of other unions brought them out of depots after the state government warned them of stringent action, as the Supreme Court had banned such strikes in public interest," an official told IANS.
Around 23,000 buses of the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) and its affiliated agencies in northwest and northeast regions are staying off the roads due to the strike across the state since midnight.
Additional police personnel have been deployed at many depots, bus terminals and public places across the state to maintain law and order and prevent damage to public property.
The state-run Bangalore Metropolitan Rail Transport Corporation Ltd has been operating metro services every five minutes since 5 a.m. on the east-west corridor between the eastern and western suburbs to ferry commuters who are dependent on public transport.
Even South Western Railway is running more local trains on the suburban routes to facilitate people who commute in and around the city.
"All mail and express trains are also halting at suburban stations to pick and drop commuters travelling between Bengaluru and Kolar, Tumakuru, Mysuru and Gouribidanur in the state, as the bus strike has hit intra-state and inter-state services hard," a railway spokesperson told IANS.
The state transport department has begun issuing temporary permits to maxi cabs, vans and private buses to operate services in cities and towns to mitigate hardship for the people depending on public transport.
"About 13,000 private buses are being deployed with stage carriage permits to operate between Bengaluru, Mysuru and other cities and towns in the region," state Transport Minister Ramamlinga Reddy told reporters here.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah called upon the leaders of the KSRTC workers' unions representing the four (southern, central, coastal and northern) regions of the state to call off the strike and return to negotiations on wage revision.
"It's difficult to negotiate if the unions demand 30-35 per cent salary hike, as it will mean an additional expenditure of Rs 4,650 crore to the exchequer and similar demands by other employees in the state," Reddy reiterated.
Noting that the public transport system was the lifeline of commuters, especially students, working class and labour force who cannot afford personal vehicles, Siddaramaiah said the state government had offered a 10 per cent hike to the KSRTC employees, keeping in view the economic viability of the corporation and its agencies.
"We are ready to discuss their other demands if they call off the strike and come to us for talks," Siddaramaiah said.
KSRTC staff and federation general secretary H.V. Anantha Subbarao told reporters that the strike was total, as the response from the employees was overwhelming.
"We are sorry for the inconvenience caused to the public by the strike, as the state government has not been responding to our demand since November 2015 despite reminders and many rounds of talks," Subbarao said.