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Buses stay off roads in Punjab as PRTC, PUNBUS workers begin strike; commuters stranded

Nearly 4,000 buses stayed off the roads in Punjab on Wednesday as thousands of contractual employees of Pepsu Roadways Transport Corporation (PRTC) and Punjab Roadways (PUNBUS) went on strike over several long-pending demands, including regularisation and salary parity, among others.

The protesters alleged that despite numerous government assurances and several meetings over the past year, their legitimate demands had not been met.

“Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and transportation department officials have made several promises, but they have proven futile,” said Satwinder Saini, vice-president of Punjab Roadways, PUNBUS, PRTC Contractual Worker Union. He added that though the previous government had committed to a 5 per cent salary increase, the current government had not implemented it.

Saini said that a meeting is scheduled with Punjab Transport Minister Laljit Singh Bhullar in Chandigarh on Wednesday. The protesters will only consider ending the strike if they receive a written commitment to meet their demands within a specified timeframe, otherwise, the strike will continue, he added.

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Nearly 7,000 bus drivers, conductors, and workshop staff are currently on strike.

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The primary demands of the protesting employees include regularisation, equivalent salaries to regularised employees, cessation of outsourcing for new hires, addressing issues afflicting the buses and tires, and reinstating those suspended for minor reasons.

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Meanwhile, the strike has caused inconvenience to people, leaving several commuters, particularly women eligible for free travel on Punjab government buses, stranded. “I have urgent business in Ludhiana today but with no buses available, I am at a loss. I cannot afford the taxi fare and I have no idea how to travel by train,” Kuljit Kaur, who was accompanied by her children, said at Jalandhar bus station. Several commuters returned home after learning that no buses were operating.

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