No let-up in strike, thousands arrested

CHENNAI Oct. 31. For the second successive day, thousands of government employees and teachers were detained when they tried to picket government offices in taluk headquarters, besides in Chennai, as part of their on-going strike seeking payment of benefits withheld by the government, citing a resource crunch.

While leaders of the Joint Action Council of Tamil Nadu Teacher Employees organisations and Government Employee Organisations (JACTTEO-GEO) said over 50,000 persons participated in the picketing and courted arrest, official figures put the number of detainees at 23,000. The number included about 100 in Chennai, where picketing was held near the Ezhilagam complex at Chepauk.

The JAC leaders said two district secretaries of the TN Government Employees Association, one from Chennai and the other from Kanyakumari, were later arrested under Section 151 Cr.P.C and remanded to custody.

However, they said their agitation and dharna programme would continue until the Government called them for unconditional talks and stopped its ``vindictive arrests and detention''.

The leaders condemned the Government for ``producing an image as if it was spending nearly 94 per cent of its revenue on staff salary and pension and other benefits''. Last February, during talks between the Government promised to consider the employees' demands for bonus, payment of new DA rates and earned leave salary. But as the Government did not honour its commitment, the staff members were forced into the agitation.

Even if the present benefits were continued, the total establishment expenditure would not be more than 39 per cent. The JACTTEO-GEO would spread the correct message among the people, its conveners said.

Meanwhile, police sources said attendance of ministerial staff improved on Thursday and nearly all staff members at the DGP's office resumed work. Last week, several of the ministerial staff members in the police department were given charge memos for participating in the strike.

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