Out of 955 buses in the central region, about 485 buses were operated
The strike called by various trade unions of the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation resulted in restricted operation of buses in central region on Thursday.
At least 45 % of bus services were affected in Tiruchi region, comprising Tiruchi, Perambalur and Ariyalur districts. While the response for the strike received poor response in Ariyalur district, it received moderate to good response in Perambalur and Tiruchi district.
Nearly 10 % of the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC) staff members reported for duty at the bus depots in Tiruchi early in the morning. The situation began to improve as the day progressed. Operation of buses went up to 20% by 8 a.m. and increased gradually. At the Central Bus Stand, nearly 40 % to 50 % of the buses were operated by 10 a.m.
Most of the crew members, who reported for duty were members of Anna Thozhirsanga Peravai while most workers owing allegiance to the LPF, CITU and AITUC took part in the strike.
According to sources in the TNSTC, 55% of buses in Tiruchi region were operated as usual. While it was 50% in Tiruchi, Ariyalur and Perambalur recorded 76% and 65% respectively. Out of 955 buses in the region, about 485 buses were operated. Crew members of other buses failed to report for duty.
The limited operations put commuters to hardship as many had to wait for long hours to catch buses to their destinations. Buses were operated for short destinations such as Dindigul, Manapparai, Thanjavur, Karur and Kumbakonam. But, there were hardly any buses to Ramanathapuram, Rameswaram, Kanyakumari and Tirunelveli.
A. Selvakumar, a passenger from Tiruchi, said that he had been waiting for a bus to reach Ramanathapuram since 7 a.m., but was yet to find one till 9.30 am.
However, all private buses operated as usual. There were allegations of collection of excess fare in some private buses operated to Pudukottai from Tiruchi. As against the normal fare of ₹47, a few operators collected anywhere between ₹60 and ₹70 for Pudukottai, it was alleged.
In Thanjavur, commuters were forced to travel in heavily crowded buses due to curtailed services. Commuters arrived at the bus stands in different parts of the district only to find a few buses plying to full capacity. Many had to wait for more than 30 minutes as the State Transport Corporation, Kumbakonam Division officials made ad-hoc arrangements to ensure adequate services to clear traffic from the bus stands.
Kumaran of Thanjavur, a regular commuter between Thanjavur and Kumbakonam, faulted the STC officials for remaining lethargic and failing to keep standby bus crew ready to nullify the strike effect from the early morning hours itself. It could have helped the public avoid travelling in packed buses amidst the pandemic.
While the striking trade unions claimed that 70 per cent of buses were off the roads, TNSTC officials said that they were able to operate 50% of regular services to cater to the needs of the travelling public. All employees except those owing allegiance to the trade unions of AIADMK, PMK and TMC, have stayed away from the work.
Official sources said that the patronage to the strike call from employees had gradually declined after 10 a.m. as the news about crediting of ₹1,000 as “interim relief” in the employee’s bank accounts reached them. The officials indicated that they might engage temporary bus drivers and conductors to maintain normal services, if necessary.