A 55-year-old Telangana State Road Transport Corporation driver died on Sunday, a day after he set himself ablaze, even as the strike by the transport employees in Telangana entered the ninth day.
D Srinivas Reddy, who was part of the group of employees on a state-wide strike for the last nine days, died of burn injuries, hospital sources here said.
The driver had doused himself with kerosene and set himself ablaze near his house in Khammam, about 190 km from Hyderabad, reportedly in protest against the government not acceding to the demands of striking employees.
However police said they were investigating the reason behind his suicide.
As news about Reddy's death spread, a large number of striking employees of TSRTC gathered near the hospital, but police at the spot whisked them away in police vehicles.
Protests also broke out in different parts of the city and other places, with employees raising slogans and holding the state government responsible for Reddy's death.
The employees have been on strike since the last nine days, demanding merger of RTC with the government and recruitment to various posts, among others.
Reddy, who had suffered around 90 per cent burn injuries, was shifted to a hospital here on Saturday night from Khammam and succumbed at around noon on Sunday.
Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy condoled the death and said the incident has pained him very much.
"Suicide is not the solution. Nobody should resort to such steps in future," he said.
Reddy urged the Telangana Government to resolve the RTC strike issue amicably by holding talks with the unions.
He also extended his condolences to the bereaved family.
Leaders of the opposition Congress and BJP in Telangana also condoled Reddy's death and conveyed their condolences to the bereaved family members.
Nearly 48,000 workers of employees and workers unions of TSRTC began an indefinite strike from October 5 on a call by the Joint Action Committee of TSRTC.
On Sunday, Telangana Panchayat Raj Minister Errabelli Dayakar Rao alleged that some political parties were provoking the union leaders and claimed it was a ‘political conspiracy’ against the government.
"Congress or BJP did nothing for RTC employees. Did any BJP government in other states merge their state transport corporations? Parties should stop the dramas," he said.
Minister for BC Welfare and Civil Supplies Gangula Kamalakar alleged that political parties were instigating the unions for their political gains.
He cautioned the workers not to fall prey to such vicious attempts and added that the government had never said it would privatise RTC.
The ministers further said the government never promised to merge RTC with the government and it (merger of RTC) was neither the government's policy nor in the party's manifesto.
The JAC of TSRTC has given a Khammam 'bandh' call for Monday and Congress Legislature Party leader Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka said his party supported the shutdown call.
Meanwhile the union leaders appealed to striking workers not to resort to suicides and said condolence meetings would be held on Monday at all depots in the state.
Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao on Saturday had said there was no question of having talks with the striking employees or taking them back.
Rao also directed officials to restore bus services and if need be, recruit employees, utilise the services of retired RTC and Police department drivers.
The government, he said, would not recognise the 'illegal and unlawful' strike under any circumstances and there was no question of having any talks with those on strike.
"The striking employees will not be taken back, come what may," an official release quoted him as having said.
Rao, who chaired a review meeting on the situation on Saturday, directed officials to pay salaries for the month of September to those who were not participating in the strike.
He said the striking workers had blindly believed union leaders' statements and had only themselves to blame for losing their jobs.
Supervisors were also dragged into the strike, which had never happened in the past, he said.
Rao said the union leaders were responsible for 48,000 employees losing their jobs. There was no scope of taking back those who abstained from duties, he said.
The chief minister also directed DGP M Mahendar Reddy to take steps to increase security cover at all RTC depots, book cases, arrest those indulging in unlawful activity and violence and those trying to stop buses from plying.
The JAC had called for a state-wide bandh on October 19, even as the Government on Saturday extended the Dasara vacation till October 19, not to inconvenience students.