Electricity Department staff in U.T. begin indefinite strike

Joint move: Electricity Department workers have begun an indefinite strike to oppose the Centre’s move to privatise the power sector in the Union Territory.   | Photo Credit: S.S. Kumar

A significant section of electricity workers began an indefinite strike on Monday against the Centre’s privatisation move of the power distribution in Puducherry even as the Government urged agitators to call off the “illegal” stir in the interest of the public.

Under the umbrella of the Joint Action Committee of engineers and other categories of staff representing about 3,000 employees in the Department, hundreds of workers assembled at the headquarters of the Puducherry Electricity Department in Dubrayapet.

Heavy police bandobust was deployed in the area to prevent any untoward incident.

“Employees across levels are participating in the strike and have resolved not to back down from our demand to drop the privatisation move,” said P. Velmurugan, Electricity Engineers and Employees’ Privatisation Protest Committee.

The conciliatory talks convened by the Labour Department failed to yield any result.

“The strike is also about upholding public interest in the long term as electricity workers are also consumers. Allowing entry of private players in the power sector would result in uncontrolled hikes in tariffs,” Mr. Velmurugan said.

The workers also believe that there is no rationale for privatisation of the power sector in Puducherry as it was efficiently managed and transmission and distribution losses were well under control.

Devesh Singh, Power Secretary, told the media that the strike contravened provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 stipulating power supply as a public utility service and provisions of the disciplinary rules of the department.

Elaborate steps have been taken to ensure that normal life is not affected due to power disruptions. “All executive engineers have been instructed to be vigilant and to ensure that in case of disruptions power is restored at the earliest by utilising available staff, private parties and other government agencies”.

Manpower deployed

Additional manpower, including 22 junior engineers and five assistant engineers, has been deployed in the field for speedy remedial action during disruptions.

Meanwhile, the Electricity Department Superintending Engineer stated that the agitation of the employees of the Electricity Department was against the rules and regulations. Action would be taken against the employees indulging in agitation as per the relevant provisions of the CCS Conduct Rules and the period of strike would be considered as break in their service. Further, no salary would be paid for the period of the strike, the official added.

According to the Department, the Government of India has taken a policy decision to privatise the Electricity Departments in all the Union Territories to increase efficiency and consumer satisfaction. Preparatory works have already been commenced in most of the Union Territories.

There is an apprehension in the minds of the public that the power interruptions and service to the power consumers would be affected due to the strike / agitation. The Department proposed to deploy the services of the retired Assistant Engineers / Junior Engineers on contract basis, if situation warrants. Further, it is proposed to engage about 50 electricians and ITI apprentices on contract basis and perform all the electrical maintenance and break downs through the electrical contractors. Besides, District Collectors in Puducherry and Karaikal have imposed section 144 of CrPC in the Electricity Main Office, sub-stations and various other offices of the Electricity Department and in these circumstances, agitations on these premises would be illegal, the Department said.

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Printable version | Mar 4, 2021 2:09:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/electricity-department-staff-in-ut-begin-indefinite-strike/article33554058.ece

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