Defying ESMA, thousands of employees of state power distribution companies on 29-06-2016 began a two-day strike to protest the outsourcing of operation and maintenance of 23 power sub-divisions in Haryana even as the state government claimed power supply was normal.
Protesting employees raised slogans against the state government at various places for its decision of privatising the job of maintenance and operation of 23 sub-divisions.
Describing the decision of the employees to go on strike as unjustified, the government said power supply in "the whole state was normal".
The decision to proceed with the strike came after talks with state government remained inconclusive on Monday.
The Joint Action Committee of Haryana power employees unions proceeded on strike late last night, Committee's General Secretary Subhash Lamba said today.
The government was adamant on its decision of "privatisation", he said, alleging it had forced them to go on strike.
Around 23,000 employees of electricity department in the state have stopped work, he said.
"The matter can be resolved still if Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar himself intervenes in the matter and the government rolls back the decision of privatisation of 23 sub divisions," Lamba said.
He added the strike shall be peaceful and no power employee shall indulge in any attempt to disrupt power supply.
"The privatisation will not benefit the government in any manner. It will create financial burden on the government," he claimed.
Haryana government had already invoked ESMA to prevent disruption in power supply due to strike.
Meanwhile, Haryana Chief Secretary D S Dhesi said despite the strike by a "section of employees" of the power utilities, the consumers were getting 8,000 MW of power today by noon as compared to the average supply of 7,200 MW in the last one week at the same time.
The Chief Secretary, who was accompanied by Additional Chief Secretary, Power, Rajan Gupta, told reporters here "the power supply in the whole state was normal. About 36 per cent of total employees remained absent. The supply, however, was maintained by the officers with the help of remaining employees. All the officers of the department are on duty round the clock. Special emergency teams are working to attend to the complaints promptly."
He said district magistrates and officers in the field have been given specific instructions to ensure that power supply is not disrupted.
Those found trying to disrupt the supply of power would invite stern action against themselves, he warned.
Dhesi said the number of absentees is more in districts of Hisar, Gurgaon, Faridabad, Ambala and Kurukshetra. He added that two incidents of causing disruption in supply of power have been reported from Hisar and Bahadurgarh, where the supply was restored.
Dhesi said the government was committed to ensure uninterrupted supply of power to all categories of consumers in urban as well as rural areas and it was also taking steps to ensure that the people are not put to any inconvenience.
He said that the government would not take any step which would adversely affect the employees.
He added that the government was of the view that the present strike by power employees was "unjustified" and uncalled for.
Dhesi further said the state government is also committed to ensure that the employees of Haryana Power Utilities are properly looked after and their interests are fully protected.
Gupta said a reference has been made to the Labour Tribunal for conciliation of the dispute. All other legal measures have been taken to ensure discipline.
"In case an employee indulges deliberately in sabotage of power supply, strict action as per law will be taken against such person," he said.
Gupta said the agitation being resorted to by a section of the employees is totally unjustified.
The employees are agitating against the policy decision of the state government of engaging service providers in 23 sub-divisions for undertaking maintenance works and redressing complaints of the consumers relating to interruption of power supply.
Justifying the decision of outsourcing of maintenance, Gupta said that it was a pilot project and its results would be visible in next three-four months.
"This is a win-win situation for both the government and the employees as the consumers shall get good service at low cost," he said and hoped the employees of the utilities would cooperate to continue it.
The service providers have been asked to arrange sufficient manpower and equipment so that the complaints of breakdowns received from consumers are addressed in a time bound manner.
They have also been asked to carry out preventive maintenance to avoid breakdown in supply of electricity.
He said the service providers have been engaged to supplement the existing infrastructure of DISCOMs. The decision to engage companies is not intended to adversely affect any employee of the Nigams in any manner. It will rather further facilitate their functioning, he said.
He stated that a requisition has been sent to the Haryana Staff Selection Commission for filling up of 5000 posts for managing sub-stations of the Power Utilities efficiently.
In the last two years more than 200 sub-stations have been augmented or commissioned. An investment of nearly Rs 10,000 crores has been planned in the next three years, he said.
Engaging service providers in 23 sub-divisions is one of the steps in the direction of greater consumer satisfaction.
Gupta made it clear that the private companies have been hired to undertake maintenance works like breakdowns and restore electricity.
"The remaining work would continue to be done by the existing employees of power utilities. Therefore, as a result of this decision neither the existing employees working in these 23 sub-divisions would be retrenched nor it would affect their promotions," he said.
Gupta said the basic objective of the state government is convenience of the public.
"No step has been taken which can be interpreted as adverse to the interest of the employees. The employees have been invited regularly for talks and discussions and everything has been explained to them in detail," he said.
Gupta said that the power sub-stations being the sensitive installations, police has made adequate arrangements for their safety. The police is patrolling the areas of transmission lines so as to protect them from miscreants and anti-social elements.
However, Gupta warned that if anyone tries to stop any employee from joining duty or tries to sabotage, those employees will be identified and stern action will be initiated against them.
On invoking ESMA, he said it will not be used in a blanket manner and will be used only as much its need is felt.
"We are trying to persuade the employees to return to their duties... Our priority is to maintain regular supply," he said.
In reply to another question, Gupta said the government was committed to provide electricity at an economical rate. The cost of power generation has not been increased during 2015-16. A petition has already been filed with the regulator to reduce the Fuel Surcharge Adjustment by 25 paise.
He hoped that the power tariff would be reduced by year-end.
Employees have been protesting against the government's decision of outsourcing of operation and maintenance of 23 power sub-divisions in the state.
Besides, they are demanding filling up 30,000 vacant posts, inquiry into "sharp rise in losses and debt" of power distribution companies.
Khattar had earlier appealed to the agitating employees to withdraw their strike call and said his government was open to talks with them and their genuine grievances will be redressed promptly.
However, the talks between Haryana government and protesting employees had "failed to yield result".
The strike has been called jointly by the All Haryana Power Corporation Workers Union and Haryana State Electricity Board Workers' Union.