Manipur likely to invoke ESMA to break employees’ strike

Imphal, Feb 26 (Calcutta Tube) The Manipur government is likely to invoke the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) to break the indefinite strike of state government employees since Jan 16 demanding higher salaries, officials said here Friday.

‘In view of the strike, the functioning of government hospitals is paralysed and the out-patient departments (OPD) are even closed since Wednesday,’ a government official told reporters.

‘The ESMA could be applied against those agitating leaders who were on strike as it has inconvenienced thousands of people,’ he added.

Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh, who also holds the finance portfolio, said the government would pay the salary and arrears with effect from March this year.

‘The government needs Rs.1,000 crore to provide the salary and arrears with retrospective effect. We are waiting for the recommendations of the 13th finance commission,’ Singh told journalists Friday.

However, the striking employees are demanding payment with retrospective effect from January 2006.

The Joint Administrative Council of Employees’ Organisations (JACEO), the apex body of the Manipur government employees, is spearheading the agitation that started Jan 16, demanding implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission’s recommendations.

The chief minister has on several occasions appealed to the agitating employees to end the stir and concentrate on their administrative work, as the financial year was coming to an end.

Singh expressed his government’s inability to hike the salaries due to paucity of funds.

‘The government cannot think only of the 60,000 government employees, but also should think about the 2,400,000 people in the northeastern state,’ he said.

JACEO secretary general Chandramani Singh told reporters: ‘There is no question of withdrawing the agitation. We shall intensify our stir until the state government meets our demand.’

The government employees have been agitating occasionally since November 2008, demanding hike in their salaries. The stir was called off October last year after Ibobi Singh promised the employees that the government would consider the demand after receiving grant from the 13th Finance Commission.

Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee Thursday presented the report of the 13th Finance Commission in the Lok Sabha along with the action taken report.

The functioning of the administration and government works were paralysed for over three months after the employees went on a similar agitation Nov 27, 2008.

‘The Manipur government has been providing salaries to the all India service officers and bureaucrats as per the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission even as the government is citing shortage of funds to provide due higher salaries of general employees,’ Chandramani Singh added.

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