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Jaya teeth for strike stick

Chennai, July 4: Chief minister Jayalalithaa has decided to act tough as the indefinite strike by over 12 lakh state government employees and teachers entered the third day today.

The government has promulgated an Ordinance that empowers the authorities concerned to “impose any penalty, including dismissal from service or declaration of break in service”, on the striking staff “without conducting any inquiry”.

The Tamil Nadu Essential Services Maintenance (Amendment) Ordinance, 2003, promulgated by Governor P.S. Ramamohan Rao and notified in an “extraordinary gazette” today, gives more teeth to the authorities to deal with government servants “who openly defy” its earlier notification banning strikes in essential services, which includes all state government departments.

The Ordinance, which comes after more than 1,200 employees and teachers were arrested under the Essential Services Maintenance Act (Esma) in the last three days, makes it clear that any government servant not attending office, “is deemed to have participated in the strike, which has been prohibited by issuance of a notification under Section 3 of the Act”.

The Ordinance, however, provides an ameliorating clause, saying government servants are entitled to approach the “appointing authority” within a week and prove that the cause of absence from work was not due to participation in the strike, but some other bonafide reason.

If the appointing authority is satisfied, it may pass orders, revoking or modifying the punishment.

The overall attendance at the Secretariat today escalated to 32 per cent.

However, all those who reported for duty were allegedly not allowed to sign the registers, sources said. Only those who had turned up for work on July 2, when the strike officially began, were allowed to mark their attendance.

HC bar on midnight arrests

Madras High Court, hearing a writ petition seeking to declare Esma as “unconstitutional”, observed that the government should avoid “midnight arrests and house- searches”.

Sections of government employees, including women, have complained of “midnight” knocks by police and security personnel, allegedly asking them to report for duty.

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