The indefinite strike by the KSRTC employees entered the second day on Tuesday,  severely inconveniencing commuters who are dependent on public transport.

The government is exploring options to reign in the protesting employees including invoking Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA). It has already issued a warning to over 15,000 probationary employees that disciplinary action would be taken against them if they do not report to work immediately.

The final decision on the next course of action by the government is expected in the evening after a cabinet meeting that is scheduled at 4 pm.

Over 1.25 lakh work force that operated 23,000 strong bus fleet began strike across the state on Monday and it has already caused a loss of Rs 17 crore. While the strike distressed many despite the presence of private buses, mini buses and other means of transport, Tuesday also saw no government buses on the roads.

The workers are demanding a pay hike that is much higher than what the government is ready to pay. While the employees want a 35 per cent hike in wages, the government is ready to give 10 per cent. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has already ruled out a hike beyond 10 per cent as it would cost the state exchequer more than Rs 1,500 crore.

“They (the employees) are asking for 35 per cent of wage hike. This means an additional burden of Rs 6,300 crore to the exchequer,” he said. “Almost 45 to 50 per cent of the revenues generated by the corporations are spent on salaries and allowances,” he added.

A high-level meeting was chaired by Siddaramaiah on Tuesday morning where officers briefed him about how the strike was paralysing the transport system. Transport Department Principal Secretary Ramana Reddy, KSRTC MD K Rajendra Kumar Kataria, BMTC MD Ekroop Kaur and Transport Commissioner Ramegowda participated in the meeting.

The meeting examined various possibilities including taking the services of trainee drivers to operate buses and invoking ESMA if talks fail. It also discussed disciplinary action against some union leaders including suspension.

Sources said the meeting discussed the announcement of 12.5 per cent hike as a last-ditch effort to end the deadlock. ESMA provides provision for non-bailable cases against KSRTC employees if they refuse to show up for work. The arrested employees could face a year in jail, a fine of Rs 5,000, or both.

A cabinet meeting scheduled in the evening will discuss measures to bring the striking employees back to work.

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