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UP: Amid Farmers’ Stir, Yogi Govt Invokes ESMA, Imposes 6-Month Ban on Strikes, Protests

Several labour and state government employees' organisations (who are planning more OPS protests),termed the order as "anti-democratic.".
Government employees under the banners of Gujarat State Employees Mahamandal and Gujarat State United Employees Front participate in a protest march over various demands including restoration of the old pension scheme, in Rajkot, September 11, 2022.

Government employees under the banners of Gujarat State Employees Mahamandal and Gujarat State United Employees Front participate in a protest march over various demands including restoration of the old pension scheme, in Rajkot, September 11, 2022. Image Courtesy: PTI(File Image)

Lucknow: Amid the ongoing farmers’ protest in Haryana and Punjab called by various farmer organisations, the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government in Uttar Pradesh has invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA), banning strikes by government employees in all state government departments, corporations, and authorities for a period of six months. 

“In exercise of the powers under sub section (1) of the section-3 of the Uttar Pradesh Essential Services Maintenance Act, 1966 (UP Act No 30 of 1966), the State government prohibited strike for a period of six months from the date of the notification,” the notification issued by Additional chief secretary (ACS) Devesh Chaturvedi read.

The notice further added that even after the imposition of the ESMA Act, if any employee is found on strike or protesting, the employee will be arrested without warrant on charges of violating the Act.

The UP government had banned strikes for six months during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic (, and again in May 2021.

Several labour and state government employees' organisations opposed the order invoked by the government, terming it "anti-democratic.". 

Prem Nath Rai, general secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), said, "The Yogi government is scared of the employees as after the Covid-19, Section 144 is always imposed in the entire state from time to time. The government had already invoked ESMA in the electricity department. Last year, when there was a strike called by Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Limited (UPPCL) employees, ESMA was in place. Six months passed and then ESMA was extended. Now it has been extended to all departments in the entire state because this government is anti-democratic," he told NewsClick.

When questioned about the probable reason behind imposing ESAMA, the CITU leader said, "The wave of Ram Mandir from January 22 to 30, our program on February 16, Samyukta Kisan Morcha and Trade Union changed the narrative of the government and the real issue of the public which is unemployment. Inflation, minimum wage, farmers' MSP and etc., all these questions are emerging and the government is nervous."

Shailendra Dubey, convener of UP Rajya Vidyut Karmacharis Sanyukt Sangharsh Samiti termed uncalled for. 

"The manner and time in which this order has been issued is completely unwarranted and unnecessary because there is no such notice of any kind of strike yet by the state employee. Generally, when there is a notice of any strike by the employees, such steps are taken by the government and as far as the power sector is concerned, ESMA has been in place for the last 10 years for 12 months. Every year in January between 4 to 5, a new ESMA order is issued for 6 months and in July it is extended again for six months. What is the justification for imposing ESMA in the power sector for the whole year? Are there strikes in the power sector throughout the year?  It is an attempt to suppress the democratic rights of the employees by imposing the ESMA Act."

Dubey further added, "The government apprehends that before the Lok Sabha elections, the state employees might give notice to go on strike regarding the Old Pension Scheme. However, It is a democratic process that if an employee or organisation gives notice then there should be talks on it and the solution is always found through dialogue, even after a strike there is dialogue but there is no notice, no dialogue and directly ESMA was imposed. It is inappropriate to crush the democratic rights of employees that we do not give you permission for demonstrations and movements."

The Act gives the police the power to arrest employees violating the provisions without a warrant and imprisonment for a term which may extend up to one year or a fine which may extend to Rs 1,000 or both, to any person who instigated a strike which was illegal under the Act. 

Virendra Mishra, national spokesperson of Rashtriya Shaikshik Mahasangh (RSM), a national-level outfit of primary school teachers, told NewsClick, "This government is anti-employee, the old pension scheme is not being restored despite protesting over the year. All state employees’ organisations are preparing for the movement ahead of Lok Sabha polls and to suppress the same movement, the government has imposed ESMA."

When asked if OPS will be made a poll issue, Mishra said, "We will fight for our democratic rights no matter whether the ruling government imposed ESMA or Section 144 to suppress our voice. How can the government stop us from protesting as it is our democratic rights. This is pure dictatorship."

He said his efforts for OPS will continue and the government will restore it if not today but tomorrow. 

Read Also: UP: Protest by Govt Employees Intensifies for Old Pension Scheme

Notably, state employees from various government departments have been continuously protesting for the reintroduction of the old pension system (OPS), abolition of fixed pay arrangement, cashless medical facility and implementation of 7th Pay Commission recommendations, among other demands.

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