The Employees Unions (EUs) of RTCs, in two Telugu states, have been demanding steep wage hikes and have been threatening to go on strike in recent months. Further, the Unions have been demanding to merge their Corporations into their respective Governments. While AP Government was positive to give a modest hike, the Telangana CM had outrightly rejected the demand.

The CM Chandrasekhar Rao had pointed out that compared to the salaries of RTC staff in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra, TSRTC is paying handsomely. The moot question is that if the RTC employees’ salaries were to be decided on the basis of salaries of RTC employees of other states, why the same principle cannot be applied in case of state government employees.

The RTCs in both Telugu states, in fact in almost all states, are in losses. But, the losses are the result of the state governments’ policies and practices. Public transport, being partly a merit good, the governments have to provide support and subsidies to the Corporations. Instead of providing part of finance/ subsidy, the governments have been squeezing the Corporations through variety of taxes and other practices.

For example, the RTC in the combined state had paid Rs.431.54 cr. as Motor Vehicles Tax and Rs.517.63 cr. as Sales Tax in 2011-12. In the same year, the Corporation, at the behest of the state government, has extended concessions, worth Rs.747.41 cr, to students, physically challenged persons, freedom fighters, journalists, etc. Despite the clear guidelines from the Government of India for the complete reimbursement of total concessions’ amount, the State governments do not honour their commitment fully. At best the state governments reimburse a small proportion in some years.

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For example, the Government of combined Andhra Pradesh had provided in the State Budget, Rs.200 cr. for the reimbursement in 2012-13, against the estimated loss of Rs.859 cr. due to various concessions given by the RTC in that year. Further, a very high Ad Valorem Tax by the State governments and equally exploitative Central Excise Duty on Petroleum products have deprived the RTCs, the benefits of the slump in oil prices in the international markets in recent years.

Apart from above the state governments’ another serious omission is the negligence of the governance of the Corporations.

Post economic reforms and privatisation, the Corporations have been operating in a highly competitive environment. RTCs need highly qualified people and committed stakeholders in the crucial positions. However, the Chairpersons, who get appointed on political consideration, do not have domain knowledge. They also show different levels of commitment towards the Corporations. In the absence of domain knowledge and full commitment, such persons would focus usually on their personal comforts and professional growth.

Yet another critical area, which was neglected, was the human resource’s utilisation. While initiating the economic reforms in the early 1990s, the then Finance Minister Dr Manmohan Singh said that the purpose of economic liberalisation and reforms was to “unleash the animal spirit of the entrepreneurship in the country”.

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In other words, the liberalisation was aimed at realizing the full potential of the human beings, i.e. every person in the country. Under the economic reforms in the public transport, privatisation was the only major initiative in the combined state. All other initiatives were cosmetic, at best, and yielded marginal gains.

The reforms and liberalisation in RTC, in the erstwhile state and also in the new states, have failed to galvanise its precious and largest resources – the human resource. The quality of services, in any public interactive organizations, would depend on the commitment and attitude of its human resources.

To realize the full potential of their manpower, the RTCs/ Governments in both Telugu states need a paradigm shift from considering labour as input, which needs to be minimized to labour as the partners in the development process and their role needs to be optimize. In his renowned book – “Small is Beautiful”, E. F. Schumacher pointed out that “the modern economist has been brought up to consider ‘labour’ or work as little more than a necessary evil.

From the point of view of the employer, it is in any case simply an item of cost, to be reduced to a minimum if it cannot be eliminated altogether, say, by automation. From the point of view of the workman, it is a ‘disutility’; to work is to make a sacrifice of one’s leisure and comfort, and wages are a kind of compensation for the sacrifice. Hence the ideal from the point of view of the employer is to have output without employees, and the ideal from the point of view of the employee is to have income without employment”. On the other hand, according to Schumacher

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“The Buddhist point of view takes the function of work to be at least threefold: to give a man a chance to utilize and develop his faculties; to enable him to overcome his egocentredness by joining with other people in a common task; and to bring forth the goods and services needed for a becoming existence”. The Global Human Development Report 2015 has echoed similar view.

It may be recalled that RTC Employees’ Unions have unearthed many clandestine activities of private bus operators in recent years. To leverage the full potential of their labour power for the benefits of all, RTCs may (1) introduce an employee stock option plan (ESOP) kind of scheme; (2) induct the representatives of employees in the Board; (3) cap the number of terms a person can contest in the Union elections. Such an approach and initiatives not only resolve current conflicts, but also benefit the employees, the Corporations and the society as whole. #KhabarLive