Chandigarh: Nearly two lakhs employees of Haryana Government and semi-government bodies have begun their three-day strike, crippling essential services like power and water, hospitals, and educational institutions, even as the state brokered a deal to bring some buses back on road.
Defying prohibitory orders and warning of disciplinary action, nearly two lakh employees of the state government, boards and corporations, under the banner of Haryana Sarv Karamchari Sangh (HSKS), began their 72-hour strike midnight last night, demanding abolishment of contractual system and outsourcing of work.
Late in the night, senior state minister Randeep Singh Surjewala, however, managed to convince a section of striking Haryana Roadways employees, who had begun the strike yesterday morning, to resume work assuring them to fulfil their demands, including regularisation of over 8,000 contract employees.
HSKS general secretary Subash Lamba claimed the strike was successful with "over 85 percent of the employees" joining the protest. He said around 200 employees of various departments had been arrested by police for violating prohibitory orders imposed in most parts of the state.
"We are open to talks with the state government, but it is not prepared to broker peace as it had failed to keep its promises made to employees from time to time," he said, adding that the union would meet tomorrow to discuss the split among Roadways workers.
Taking a tough stand against the strike, the government has implemented "No Work, No Pay" rule for the employees joining the strike, which has hit the supply of essential services in the state, Chief Secretary SC Choudhary said.
"The rule of `No Work, No Pay` will be strictly followed as the strike is causing inconvenience to the people,"he said.
The authorities have made adequate arrangements to prevent any untoward incident during the strike, officials said, adding that police personnel in sufficient numbers have been deployed at sensitive places to maintain law and order.
Majority of government educational institutions, including colleges and universities, remained closed, and power and water supply was affected in many parts of the state, the HSKS general secretary said.
"Several electricity feeders remained off in most parts of Haryana, including in Rohtak, Jind, Hisar, Sirsa, Mewat, Palwal, Faridabad, and Narnaul districts," he said, lambasting the government for "turning the entire state into cantonment".
According to reports, employees of Irrigation and Public Health Engineering departments also joined the strike in these districts, affecting water supply to the areas.
A criminal case had been registered against employees of power utilities in Rohtak district on charges dereliction of duty, and stern legal and administrative action would be taken against them, an official spokesman said.
The Managing Director of Power Utilities issued necessary guidelines for smooth electricity supply during the strike, but "some employees have deliberately interrupted supply causing inconvenience to consumers", the spokesman said.
Haryana Roadways Employees Union president Sarbat Singh Poonia was arrested, along with Fatehabad depot president Shiv Kumar Sheoran and other union members, sources said.
Earlier in the day, five of the seven Roadways employees unions decided to withdraw their strike after a four-hour meeting with Industries Minister Randeep Singh Surjewala at his residence here. The meeting started at midnight last night and ended at 3.45 AM, an official said.
"After the meeting with the government, the roadways employees unions called off their strike," Haryana Roadways Employees Coordination Committee member Dalbir Nehra said.
"The talks have yielded positive results," he said, adding five unions - All Haryana Roadways Workers Union, Haryana Roadways Combined Employees Organisation, Roadways Karamchari Union, Haryana Roadways Workers Union, and Haryana Roadways Ministerial Staff Association - attended the meet.
Surjewala said the state government was committed to regularise 8,500 contract employees of the roadways. All roadway employees as per their appointments since 2003 would get salaries but would not get arrears, he said, adding the state would sympathetically consider all other demands.
However, Haryana Roadways Employees Union, led by Sarbat Singh Poonia, said the strike call-off was "partial". He claimed buses of depots in Fatehabad, Sirsa, Jhajjar, Jind, Mewat, Hisar and Faridabad were not operating today.
"Our union has a strength of around 10,000 employees and they are continuing with their strike," he said.
HSKS general secretary Lamba said the government had not acceded to their prime demand of cancellation of 3,519 route permits to private bus operators. Meanwhile, the CPI(M) Haryana state unit denounced the state government of resorting to "divisive and repressive tactics" to tackle the employees` strike.
CPI(M) state secretary Inderjit Singh disapproved the Hooda government`s move to "bypass a major union and striking a deal with certain groups" in order to foil the agitation.
Describing "the so-called agreement as unfair labour practice", Singh condemned the arrests of striking employees.
He said privatisation of a large number of Haryana Roadways routes and recruitment of staff on contract were anti-people, and these policies must be reversed.
The party asked the state government to refrain from divisive and repressive tactics and settle all genuine demands through comprehensive dialogue with the leadership of the employees` unions.