HYDERABAD: Alleging that the Telangana government was misleading the public and the courts, the agitating TSRTC employees on Thursday said they were willing to drop their main demand of merger of the corporation with the transport department, for the time being.

"When talks were held earlier we had indicated that we were willing to drop some demands. However, the government kept sending messages that the employees were adamant on their demands. So the JAC decided to temporarily drop the merger demand. Now the Government should hold discussions on other demands," JAC convenor Ashwathama Reddy said.

On 41st day of the strike, the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the striking employees decided to drop the merger demand for now and offered to hold talks with the government on other demands.

Ashwathama Reddy made the announcement after discussing future course of action with leaders of various opposition parties and trade unions. He blamed the government for the death of 23 employees during last 41 days. He said the government even rejected the High Court's suggestion for a committee of three retired judges of the Supreme Court to help resolve the standoff.

He alleged that K Chandrashekhar Rao government is trying to suppress the strike by resorting to large scale arrests. He demanded that all those who were arrested across the state be released immediately. JAC's announcement came on a day when a striking employee died of depression while another was hospitalised after suffering cardiac arrest. A driver had committed suicide on Wednesday.

More than 48,000 employees of TSRTC have been on strike since October 5 to press for 26 demands, the main being the merger of TSRTC with the government so that they are treated on par with the government employees. However, the government termed the strike illegal, rejected the merger demand and ruled out talks with the employees.

After the High Court's intervention, TSRTC officials held a round of talks with JAC leaders on some demands excluding the merger demand. It, however, failed to end the impasse.

The government also did not accept the High Court's suggestion to release Rs 47 crore to meet few demands to end the stalemate, saying this would not help resolve the problems in TSRTC which is deep into financial crisis.

Further hardening its stand, the government decided to allow private operators to operate buses on 5,100 or half of TSRTC routes. On a petition challenging the government's decision, the High Court on Thursday extended the stay till November 18.

Also Read: TSRTC Strike Day 40: Telangana Govt Says ‘No’ For Judicial Committee