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Patiala Bus services across Punjab remained crippled with the indefinite strike of contract and outsourced employees of the State Transport Undertakings (STUs), including Pepsu Road Transport Corporation (PRTC), Punjab Roadways and the PUNBUS, entering its 9th day on Monday.

Nearly 8,200 contract and outsourced employees are seeking regularisation of their jobs for over 10 years. Presently, conductors on contract are being paid ₹9,118 per month, while drivers, also on contract, get ₹10,200 per month.

The PRTC has been able to operate only 25% of its 1,100 buses for these nine days, with the strike hitting the life of the common man, especially those who commute to their places of work or business. Overall, the daily losses of the three STUs runs into crores of rupees, with 80% of public buses off road.

Responding to the situation, the state government has invited the employees for a meeting, which chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh will chair, on Tuesday.

On Monday, senior officials of the state transport department and the management of three STUs held meeting at Chandigarh to chalk out plan to resolve the issue in Tuesday's meeting. PRTC managing director Bhupinderpal Singh said the issue will be discussed and resolved at the government level only. 'I cannot comment much, as the government will take the final decision,' he added.

Among other demands, the union is demanding stringent measures to keep check on transport mafia; streamlining of daily hourly roster; strengthening the STUs; implementation of equal work, equal salary law, and to stop unnecessary harassment of employees on day-to-day reports.

Harkesh Kumar, state general secretary of Punjab Roadways, Punbus and PRTC Contract Workers Union, said, 'We hope for a positive result in Tuesday's meeting. If the government fails to consider our demands, our protest will be intensified.'

PRTC INCURRING ₹95 LAKH LOSS A DAY

The PRTC, one of the key STUs, is facing a daily loss of between ₹90 lakh and ₹95 lakh over the past nine days with these employees on strike. Before the stir, the corporation's daily income was around ₹1.5 crore; since the strike, the daily receipt has been recorded at around ₹55 lakh.

'It will be difficult for the corporation to overcome these losses in coming days. Already, we were working hard to bridge the gap between daily income and expenditure, this new loss will put extra burden on corporation's fiscal condition,' an official said.
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