Himachal buses off roads as staff strike, ignore court warning

Shimla, June 14 (IANS) Commuters depending on buses were left in the lurch on Tuesday after employees of the state-run Himachal Road Transport Corp (HRTC) went on a two-day strike from midnight and asserted they would continue their agitation even after the high court warned them of action for contempt.

The employees were demanding regularisation of the contract staff and pension benefits, among other things.

The strike hit the commuters, especially the tourists, hard with connectivity between cities and towns affected.

The employees said no corporation buses were plying in the state. However, some of the buses of Punjab, Haryana and Uttarakhand state roadways are functional but they were overcrowded.

Officials of the HRTC said the striking employees would resume work from Wednesday midnight.

Acting tough against the protesting employees, the high court, which had on Monday declared the strike as illegal and issued a directive for its immediate withdrawal while asking the state to look into their demands, on Tuesday said the decision to join the strike was a contempt of court.

“The action of the respondents and other employees of the HRTC in proceeding with the strike establish a blatant defiance and disregard to the orders passed by this court and, prima facie, amounts to contempt of court,” said a division bench of Justices Tarlok Singh Chauhan and Sandeep Sharma.

They directed the employees to call off the strike latest by 5 p.m. on Tuesday or else each one of them individually and collectively along with all the employees who have proceeded to go on strike shall be liable for being prosecuted and punished for aggravating the contempt already committed by them.

After the high court proceedings, a meeting between striking employees and the state government was held in Shimla and the employees decided to continue with the strike till Wednesday midnight.

“We respect the high court order but we are forced to continue with the strike,” a leader of the striking employees, who didn’t wish to be identified, told reporters.

A division bench, headed by Chief Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir, on Monday observed that the two-day strike by HRTC employees would badly hit the common man.

“It’s beaten law of the land that the employees cannot go on strike in order to press their demands. The court has already declared the strike of doctors illegal. Accordingly, we deem it proper to issue notice,” said the bench.

It asked the transport principal secretary and the HRTC managing director to have a joint meeting with the employees and try to redress their legitimate grievances by June 20, the next date of hearing.

The HRTC has been making losses but has been important to the state as it connects far-flung villages with urban areas.

–IANS

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