Telangana Assembly: Congress, BRS spar over auto drivers’ welfare

Hyderabad: The ruling Congress and the principal opposition Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) on Friday, February 9, sparred over the welfare of auto drivers in Telangana in the state Assembly’s budget session.

Speaking about the struggles of auto drivers during the motion of thanks to the Governor’s address, Jangaon BRS MLA Palla Rajeshwar Reddy alleged that 21 auto drivers have died by suicide since the inception of the free travel scheme in TSRTC buses for women and transgender persons and demanded that the government provide Rs 20 lakh in ex gratia to their families.

“Due to free bus travel for women, 6.5 lakh auto drivers suffer, only a very few auto drivers own autos; many take autos on rent for Rs 300 a day, and they have to spend Rs 200 on fuel. Besides, many have to pay the EMI for their autos,” Palla Rajeshwar Reddy said.

“Now, they are unable to save anything for everyday expenses and are dying by suicides,” he added.

Congress responds

Responding to the BRS, IT and Industries minister D Sridhar Babu stated that the state government is committed to the welfare of auto drivers. He also questioned the BRS’ stance on the free travel scheme.

“We have promised to deliver Rs 12000 to auto workers anticipating slight issues (due to the free travel scheme). We will deliver on that promise in the upcoming budget. We have vowed to deliver on the promises within 100 days. The BRS is misleading people,” he said.

Ponnam, Seethakka question BRS

Slamming the BRS for ‘misleading rhetoric’, transport minister Ponnam Prabhakar raised questions on the party’s support to the auto workers during its time in power. “Have you ever helped auto drivers? Did you at least give Rs 1000 per month?” he asked.

Panchayat Raj and Rural Development, Rural Water Supply, Women and Child Welfare minister Danasari Anasuya, popularly known as Seethakka, asked the BRS’ take on the free travel for women scheme.

“Are you in support or against the scheme? What is your issue with women traveling for free?…..You (BRS) are just interested in rousing passions in people,” she remarked.

Sunitha Lakshma Reddy responds

Clarifying the BRS’ stand on the scheme, MLA Sunitha Lakshma Reddy said that the party while in support of the scheme, expects the government to increase the number of buses and trips.

“Women and students are suffering because of the inadequacy of buses and the number of trips. Also, the government should deliver Rs 2500 to women per month as per its poll promise,” she stated.

BRS MLAs travel in autos

Earlier today, legislators of the BRS party arrived in autorickshaws to attend the budget session to draw the government’s attention to the problems faced by autorickshaw drivers due to the implementation of the Mahalakshmi scheme, under which women are allowed to travel free in TSRTC buses. The MLAs and MLCs were carrying placards demanding the government come to the rescue of autorickshaw drivers.

After reaching the Assembly former minister and Siddipet MLA T Harish Rao told media persons that 6.5 lakh autorickshaw drivers were literally on roads due to the Congress government’s scheme.

He demanded that the government provide monthly financial assistance of Rs 10,000 each to autorickshaw drivers.