Fearing the power of people’s resistance and protests against its undemocratic policies, the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government in Uttar Pradesh imposed the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) on all government employees on Monday, February 4.
ESMA provisions give police the right to arrest anyone without a warrant who are found violating the Act’s provisions. The Act mandates imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year to any person who instigates a strike which is illegal under this Act. Despite its imposition, over 20 lakh state government workers have decided to launch a strike starting Wednesday, February 6, against the new pension scheme. The notification to invoke ESMA was issued by Chief Secretary Anup Chandra Pandey.
As reported in The Times of India, the ESMA was invoked by the UP government in view of the upcoming general elections and also due to the state board examination which are to begin on Thursday, February 7.
Speaking with NewsClick, Prem Nath, secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) said, “What the government is doing is a complete violation of the right of workers to protest. We are supporting the strike and we strongly condemn the move of the government to invoke ESMA.”
One of the party workers of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPIM) told NewsClick, “The government employees have been waiting for their pensions for a very long time and are currently protesting in multiple parts of the state, despite the crackdown by the government. We are in complete solidarity with the teachers who are protesting as the negotiations with the Yogi Adityanath government have completely failed.”
Under the Essential Services Maintenance Act, 1968, employees in a long list of "essential services" like post and telegraph, railway, airport and port operations are prohibited from going on strike.
Earlier, the government had invoked ESMA in every services of the state universities established under the Uttar Pradesh State Universities Act, 1973, including constituent colleges, associated colleges and affiliated colleges.