MUMBAI: Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray appealed to the state road transport corporation employees on Wednesday not to hold the state’s poor people hostage by continuing their strike, and cooperate with the government in its effort to resolve their issues.

In a statement, Thackeray also hit out at the opposition for “instigating” the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) employees for their political gains.

This is not the time to play politics, he said.

Bus operations at all 250 depots of the state-run MSRTC were shut on Wednesday due to the strike by its employees over the demand for a merger of the cash-strapped corporation with the state government.

Lakhs of passengers were facing hardships as the MSRTC buses were off roads.

The Bombay High Court on Monday deprecated the MSRTC employees’ “adamant stand” of not withdrawing the stir despite the state government extending full cooperation and setting up a committee to address their merger demand, as per the HC’s directions.

On Wednesday, CM Thackeray said, “Since the last few days, the government has taken steps to address the issues. Even the high court is satisfied with the steps taken by the government to address the issues of MSRTC employees.

“In such circumstances, I appeal to you with folded hands not to hold poor people of the state hostage,” he said.

Thackeray said the state has been battling the coronavirus pandemic for nearly two years now.

“So please cooperate with the state government,” he added.

The MSRTC is one of the biggest state transport corporations in the county with a fleet of more than 16,000 buses and around 93,000 employees, including drivers and conductors.

The corporation used to ferry over 65 lakh passengers daily before the coronavirus outbreak last year.