TSRTC caught in legal vortex

Centre questions its existence; more PILs filed in HC in connection with strike and govt decisions

By Author  |  Published: 9th Nov 2019  12:09 amUpdated: 9th Nov 2019  1:23 am
Commuters at the Khammam bus depot. The debt-ridden TSRTC continues to slip deeper into a financial abyss.

Hyderabad: The TSRTC imbroglio is getting sucked into a deeper legal vortex by the day, with the Centre questioning the corporation’s very existence and more PILs being filed in the Telangana High Court in connection with the strike and government decisions.

The developments are moving on the exact the same lines that Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao had predicted while announcing the three-day ‘login’ period for employees to return to work — protracted legal battles that do not augur well for the 49,000-odd workers who have now been on strike for the past 35 days.

Additional Solicitor General N Rajeshwar Rao, who appeared in the High Court for the Centre, was categorical in stating that the bifurcation of erstwhile APSRTC had not been given the green signal, nor was there any Central stake in TSRTC, leave alone liability. Rao said the Centre holds a 33 per cent equity share in APSRTC, and virtually dismissed the existence of TSRTC in the absence the Centre’s nod for bifurcation.

The contention, wrapped in legalese, however, throws up several questions for the layman and commuters who have been availing of the services for the past five years since the State formation in 2014. The corporation has been paying salaries to all its employees, the government hiked their salaries by 44 per cent post State formation, and pumped about Rs 4,500 crore into the ailing TSRTC with the hope that it would stabilise.

Against the backdrop of all these operational activities and financial hand-holding by the State government, it indeed leaves the general public perplexed, to say the least, when an observation is made over the very existence of the corporation. Where do all these developments lead to? What in reality is the entity called TSRTC?

While it is for the legal pundits to come up with answers to these questions, the developments in the past couple of days have also exposed the State BJP, which has been crying hoarse about the Centre having stakes in TSRTC. The State unit had used this argument to leverage itself into a position from where it could manipulate the RTC JAC leadership.

The saffron party, never to let go of a chance to create trouble in non-BJP ruled States, is now trying to take political advantage of the situation arising out of the indefinite strike by RTC employees. BJP, which hardly has any base in Telangana, is making desperate attempts of late to gain a foothold in the country’s youngest State.

The party ensnared the RTC JAC leadership in its carefully laid trap, with assurances that the Centre would step in sooner than later, and that the State cannot take any unilateral decision with regard to the composition of the RTC vis-à-vis privatisation of routes. BJP’s lure was based on their belief that the Centre has a 31 per cent stake in TSRTC, something that has been proved wrong now. That should leave the saffron party red-faced.

RTC told to cough up Rs 760 cr pending PF

Hyderabad: The debt-ridden TSRTC continues to slip deeper into a financial abyss, with the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) asking it to cough up Rs 760.62 crore towards provident fund of the workers.

EPFO Regional Commissioner served notice to TSRTC in-charge managing director and Principal Secretary for Transport Sunil Sharma on Friday. Recently, the Transport Department slapped it with a notice to pay Rs 452.86 crore towards tax dues for 2017-18 and 2018-19.

The EPFO authorities said the provident fund, totaling to Rs 760.62 crore, was not deposited into the accounts of the RTC employees. The TSRTC managing director was directed to appear before the EPFO Regional Commissioner with complete details of PF arrears on November 15. He was also warned that huge penalties will be levied in case of any delay in paying the PF dues.

This comes as a third major blow for TSRTC in the last three days. The corporation was asked to pay Rs 452.86 crore by Telangana Transport Department towards Motor Vehicle tax arrears. The High Court also directed it to pay Rs 200 crore to RTC Workers Credit Cooperative Society after the Society’s managing committee filed a plea stating that the TSRTC management exhausted their funds of Rs 411 crore, and did not repay them.

 

 


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