Striking employees firm despite warning of action
Imphal: The striking government employees in Manipur announced intensification of their agitation on the 100th day of their protest Sunday despite a warning of punitive action by Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh.
Over 61,000 government employees launched the strike Jan 16, demanding the full implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations, which suggested hiking salaries and paying arrears with effect from January 2006.
"The government would not remain a silent spectator if the employees do not return to their duties at the earliest," Singh said while addressing a function here Saturday.
He said: "They only demand higher salaries but are not conscious about their duties. In this situation, a government should not remain a spectator. Stringent action would be taken if they fail to go back to their duties, calling off the ceasework agitation."
The chief minister, however, did not specify what action would be taken if the government employees continued their strike.
Singh reiterated that the government would implement the higher salary structure from April this year, admitting that it did not have adequate financial resources to pay the arrears from January 2006.
"The government needs Rs.1,000 crore to provide the salary and arrears with retrospective effect," he added.
The striking employees' leaders shot back at the chief minister's warning and threatened to intensify the protest if their demands were not met soon.
"The chief minister did not project the true picture of the state's financial position," said Chandramani Singh, the secretary general of the Joint Administrative Council of Employees Organisations (JACEO), which is spearheading the agitation.
The employees' leaders Sunday gave detailed financial statements claiming that the Manipur government had enough financial resources to provide salary arrears to the employees.
"If the government can prove that the statement prepared by us is false, the employees will call off the agitation," Chandramani Singh told reporters.
"We are planning to launch a 'jail bharo' (fill the jails) agitation followed by submission of mass resignations," he added.
Meanwhile, a senior official told a news agency on condition of anonymity that the state government was likely to invoke the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) to break the indefinite strike of the state government employees.
"The functioning of government and semi-government offices is badly affected," the official said.
"The ESMA could be applied against those agitating leaders who are on strike as it has inconvenienced thousands of people," he added.