The Uttar Pradesh government has warned that it will deal with the striking power employees sternly and anyone found sabotaging the power system would be booked under the National Security Act (NSA), even as power employees in the state began a 72-hour strike from Thursday night.
While the employees, who are demanding implementation of a December 3 agreement with the government, threatened that they would switch to an indefinite strike if any of the strikers was arrested or harassed, the authorities said all the alternative arrangements to keep the power supply on track had been made, seeking to allay apprehensions that consumers could be on the receiving end.
After last-ditch efforts to persuade the UP Vidyut Karamchari Sanyukt Sangharsh Samiti leaders to withdraw the strike call, state Energy Minister A.K. Sharma admitted that the talks had failed to produce the desired result.
He said the government was ready to consider implementation of most of the points of the December 3 agreement, including the point 13 that talked of quashing FIRs lodged against power employees in the past.
“We already announced the decision to provide cashless treatment facility to all power personnel, pensioners and their families in all government hospitals and earlier gave them bonus despite the UPPCL’s fragile financial health,” he said.
Sharma further said that while doors for talks were still open, the government would deal with strikers in a tough manner if they were found creating any trouble.
“They chose to go on strike ignoring our pleas at a time when people need smooth power supply in the summer season that has already set in,” he added.
The minister warned that any striker found sabotaging the power system would be booked under the National Security Act (NSA).
He said provisions of Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) would also be invoked if consumers were put to any inconvenience. The services of contractual employees would be terminated if they joined the strike, he added.
“The Chief Secretary has already alerted the district magistrates, asking them to toughly deal with strikers,” he added.
UPPCL Chairman M. Devraj said that all the alternative arrangements to keep the power supply on track had been made.
“The NTPC and the private power plants’ staff have been roped in to run the thermal plants while employees of the electricity wing in departments like irrigation, PWD, Nagar Nigam will take care of power distribution as well as students of engineering colleges will render their services in taking care of power distribution,” he said.
He said there were certain unions that were not joining the strike. The UP Power Officers’ Association, he said, had assured that its engineers would work two hours extra during the strike.
Sangharsh Samiti convenor Shailendra Dubey, on the other hand, alleged that the strike had been imposed on the employees because the government was not able to implement the December 3 agreement due to stubbornness on the part of UPPCL top management.
“The minister was asking us to defer strike plan without giving an assurance on implementation of the December 3 agreement that was signed in his presence. We deferred work boycott agitation then with the government assuring us to implement the agreement in 15 days,” he said.
The main points of the agreement, he said, were that the government would, at the earliest, initiate the process of appointing UPPCL chairman and the managing director through selection process as laid down and not through routine transfer-posting route, UPPCL will give time-bound pay scales to all the employees like earlier and introduce power sector employees protection law.
“Our strike is only for 72 hours and the government can use this period to implement the agreement,” he said.
He claimed power employees in all the states were demonstrating in support of the strike.