Staff are protesting Centre’s move to divest shares

Electricity generation at Neyveli Lignite Corporation suffered a minor setback on Thursday as the 27,000-strong workforce had gone on an indefinite strike from Wednesday night, protesting the Centre’s move to divest 5 per cent of NLC shares.

As against the installed capacity of 2,490 MW, production was about 2,190 MW on Thursday, a shortfall of about 300 MW. About 4,400 executives and engineers of the NLC, who spurned the strike call of the trade unions, reported for duty.

They were given transport in NLC-run buses with police escort. The first shift started unusually early at 4 a.m. instead of at 6 a.m. and the second and third shifts too were advanced by an hour.

The officials were asked to assemble at Neyveli Guest House at the pre-determined timings to board a fleet of NLC buses kept ready there to be taken to the respective mines and the thermal power stations. After their shift, they were brought back to the guest house premises in a similar fashion.

NLC sources told The Hindu that 35,000 tonnes of lignite would be required everyday to fuel the thermal power stations to their full capacity. As such, the existing lignite stocks could see through another week or so.

Once the lignite supply dries up, owing to shortage of staff at the pithead and at the conveyor belt, power generation would encounter problem. The present shortfall of 300 MW of electricity generation was attributed to maintenance and inadequate staff strength.

Bandh peaceful

In spite of the strike, peaceful atmosphere prevailed on the NLC campus because of elaborate security arrangements. The bandh observed by the trading community, in solidarity with the striking workers, was total.

Caught unawares

When the trade unions and officer associations were grappling with the disinvestment issue and were eagerly awaiting the Centre’s response to the State government’s suggestion to pick up the stakes through its undertakings, the NLC management had moved the Madras High Court to obtain interim stay on the strike.

Neither the trade unions nor the associations anticipated such a legal dimension to the contentious issue and as such they were caught unawares.

Now the trade unions are looking at means to get the stay vacated.