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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

ESMA threat fails to break morale of trade union leaders, employees

EJAC leader Qayoom arrested; Khursheed Alam picked up but released in one hour

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Apr 7: Treating Omar Abdullah government’s threat of ‘no work no wages’ and detention under the draconian Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) with contempt, over 200,000 state government employees in Kashmir valley observed near-total shutdown of their work places on the third consecutive day of their strike to press their principal demand of release of arrears of their salaries. Even as, in its first enforcement of ESMA, Police today arrested a senior trade union leader, his colleagues at a news conference said that the employees were unfazed by the threats and they would soon make the Government bow.

Little impact of the government’s ESMA threat was visible on third consecutive day of the weeklong strike of the employees today in Kashmir valley as more than 95 percent of the offices remained locked and attendance was dismal in others that opened for business. Essential services and Police are not covered under the agitation that has been launched by the government employees to press their demands---primarily release of pay arrears due to them on account of implementation of the recommendations of the sixth pay commission in 2009.

Reports said that in absence of the government’s clear instructions to law enforcements agencies, particularly district magistrates and district Police chiefs, trade union leaders enjoyed a field day in keeping the offices locked and preventing staff from discharging their duties. According to these reports, a number of the employees heading for their work places or found working at offices were not only humiliated but also harassed. However, the offices of Divisional Commissioner and District Development Commissioners functioned, albeit with remarkably thin attendance.

Finding the employees and trade union leaders in high spirits, Government launched its first crackdown with the arrest of EJAC (Q) President, Abdul Qayoom Wani, when he was going to see his wife who was reportedly admitted at SKIMS Medical College Bemina. A couple of insignificant trade union activists were also arrested in Anantnag. In a significant development, Government got the most wanted EJAC (K) President, Khursheed Alam, arrested by SHO Parimpora. However, the authorities buckled under pressure from different sources and dropped him back at his residence late tonight.

Earlier today, while addressing a news conference at CAPD headquarters, Khursheed Alam asserted that the Government would be made to bow and forced to concede all of the employees’ demands. He said that there were four-and-a-half lakh employees at the back of the trade union leaders and there was no question of their succumbing to the government’s threats. Khursheed alleged that the Government had resorted to “martial law” marshal to break the morale of the agitating employees but, according to him, it would end up as an exercise in futility. He said that in reaction to Government’s action of arresting some trade union leaders and choosing to remain bellicose, Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) had extended the strike with the addition of two days to April 13th.

Khursheed Alam said that the essential services, including health and CAPD, had been left out but threatened their inclusion in case government continued to remain “at war with its own employees”. He advised consumers to keep stock of two months of ration at their homes as there was likelihood of the strike overstretching to the summer.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah arrived in the summer capital and took a detailed meeting at SKICC with senior officers of Police and civil administration to take stock of the situation arising out of the employees’ strike. Officials gave him a resume of the work, according to them, underway in their departments.

Deputy Chief Minister,Tara Chand, Minister for Medical Education, R S Chib, Minister for CAPD and Transport, Qamar Ali Akhoon, Advisor to Chief Minister, Mubarak Gul, Political Advisor to Chief Minister, Devinder Singh Rana, Minister of State for Tourism, Nasir Aslam Wani, Chief Secretary, S S Kapur, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, Khursheed Ahmed Ganai, DG Police, Kuldeep Khoda, Additional DG CID, K Rajendra Kumar, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Mrs Naseem Lanker, IGP Kashmir, Farooq Ahmed, and heads of departments of various departments and educational institutions were present in the meeting.

Addressing the officials Chief Minister said that the Government had not closed its doors for negotiations and urged upon the employees to resume their duties in the larger public interest. He said that the government was committed to fulfill the genuine demands of the employees, most of which, he asserted, had been already met. “The government requires huge sum of Rs. 4200 Crores to disburse the arrears on account of implementation of sixth pay commission recommendations for which resources have to be arranged”, he said.

Chief Minister Omar called upon the officers to ensure that the people were not put to any inconvenience due to the strike of the employees and exhorted upon them to ensure that the contingency plans were fully implemented. He said that Government’s primary responsibility was to provide services to the greater population which expected effective delivery of services. As such efforts should be made to provide the services across the board with focus on essential services particularly Education, Health, Drinking Water, Electricity and Public Distribution.

Chief Minister said that “No Work No Pay” provision would be strictly implemented and the resolve of the government in this regard remained undeterred. He said that his government was committed to the people of the state and no effort would be left to serve the population of the state in a way they expected the government to function.

Expecting an early resolution to the problem the Chief Minister said that his government has always taken an extra step to fulfill the genuine demands of its employees and despite financial resources we were among the first few states in the country to implement the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission and during the last year the government incurred an extra expenditure of Rs. 1800 crore on the demands of our employees. The employees must understand that the situation cannot be pushed beyond a certain point and appealed them to resume work and come forward for the discussions to find an amicable solution to the problem. Mr. Omar said that we are being paid to serve the people weather as Public representatives or Public Servants and our Aim must be that people of the state do not suffer at any cost.