Hyderabad: Government employees in Telangana region are set to protest from Monday in the run up to the indefinite strike from Aug 17, even as the government decided to invoke Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) in all key departments.
A showdown appears inevitable with the employees` unions deciding to boycott talks till the government withdraws orders under ESMA and calls back police forces deployed at the offices and the government giving no hint of accepting their pre-conditions.
The Telangana Joint Action Committee (JAC) of employees, officers, teachers and workers and other unions threatened to go on an indefinite strike from Aug 17 to press the demand for a separate state and some service-related issues.
As a prelude to the strike, the employees would commence `work to rule` from Monday which means they would not work beyond the stipulated office hours. They would also undertake lunch-hour demonstrations in the office premises.
As the strike threatens to paralyse the administration, the government has decided to act tough.
Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy, at a meeting late Saturday, decided to invoke provisions of ESMA in departments of civil supplies, rural water supply and panchayat raj.
The government has also decided to invoke `no work no pay` rule to tackle the strike, which pro-Telangana groups hope would give new impetus to the movement for a separate state.
Several departments like health, municipal administration, Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corp and electricity have already issued ESMA notifications banning strike for six months.
Under ESMA, a person found disturbing delivery of services by participating in the strike could face imprisonment for six months.
Officials said the government is making all efforts to avoid a February-March like situation when 16-day non-cooperation movement by nearly 300,000 employees had hit the administration.
The chief minister directed top officials to take steps to ensure that the strike has no impact in the secretariat and key offices in Hyderabad.
JAC leaders are unfazed. "We are determined to go ahead with the strike and make it successful," said JAC president Swami Goud.
He claimed the strike would be in tune with the aspirations of four crore people of Telangana and accused government of trying to intimidate them.
The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), Communist Party of India (CPI), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Telangana leaders of Congress, Telugu Desam Party, students` JAC and other groups are supporting the employees.
They have even warned that use of ESMA and other harsh measures against employees would have disastrous consequences for the Congress government.