Govt implements ESMA as UP power employee protest continues

The employees are demanding implementation of the Power Sector Employees Protection Act, stopping the outsourcing of operation and maintenance of power sub-stations for transmission, revising allowances, and fixing salary anomalies. 

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The ongoing strike by power department employees in Uttar Pradesh has disrupted normal life in the state, with many hospitals suffering from power outages. Some hospitals have been able to manage with generators, but several parts of the state have faced power outages lasting up to 72 hours. The strike began on March 16th at 10 pm and is being led by the Vidyut Karamcharis Sanyukt Sangharsh, a union of electricity department employees, with nearly 100,000 employees participating.

The employees are demanding that the government address their concerns, including implementing the Power Sector Employees Protection Act, stopping the outsourcing of operation and maintenance of power sub-stations for transmission, revising allowances, and fixing salary anomalies. They also want equal honorarium for different corporations and a selection process for power companies’ chairman and managing directors through a committee headed by the chief secretary, instead of being based on transfer.

The government has invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) against protesters and warned of invoking the National Security Act (NSA) if employees do not resume their duties. It has also terminated the services of 1,332 contractual workers and threatened to fire temporary workers who do not resume work or damage public property. State energy minister Arvind Sharma stated that the NSA will be invoked if employees involved in the strike damage properties or prevent others from performing their duties.

In October 2020, they boycotted work for an indefinite period to protest against the proposed privatisation of the Varanasi discom, affecting power supply in 21 districts of eastern UP. The state is currently on high alert due to the strike.

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