The office of Mineral Area Development Authority in Dhanbad on Sunday. Picture by Gautam Dey
Dhanbad’s summer travails may get worse with more than 1,800 workers of the coal capital’s civic body, Mineral Area Development Authority (Mada), on Sunday threatening to launch an indefinite strike from April 26 to press for a host of demands.
The employees, whose main grouses include non-payment of retirement benefits, salary arrears, pending promotion orders and non-implementation of the recommendations of the fifth and the sixth Pay Commissions in the wake of the government’s decision to merge Mada with Dhanbad Municipal Corporation (DMC), said that they would carry out their agitation phase-wise, starting with a dharna on April 23.
The three-day sit-in in front of Mada’s main office gate will be followed by a rally on April 25.
The protesters, under the aegis of Pradhikar Karmchari Sangharsh Samanvya Samiti — a conglomeration of various employees’ associations of Dhanbad — have decided to go on an indefinite strike from April 26 if the administration failed to pay heed to their demands.
The state urban development department, in accordance with the Jharkhand Municipality Act of 2011, has initiated the process of merging Mada with DMC and sought a detailed list of employees from the former. However, the Mada employees resented the move and even claimed that the government was “unsympathetic” towards their future.
“The government is ready to incorporate us into DMC and take over all our assets like Topchanchi water lake, our water supply treatment plans, pumping and fogging machines and earth movers. But it hardly cares about our future,” said convener of the samiti Devendra Nath Dubey.
“After the merger, a committee will be constituted to probe into the details of recruitment of all Mada employees. At the end of the probe, only some existing Mada employees will be absorbed into DMC,”he added.
Dubey pointed out that the committee might take five years or more to draw up a report, leaving their fates hanging in the balance. “This cannot be called a merger of Mada and DMC. Rather, it is more like the forced dissolution of the civic body that was formed in 1986,” Dubey claimed.
Working president of the samiti Bisheshwar Mahto, on the other hand, demanded that service conditions of all the employees should remain unaffected even after the merger. “We had conveyed our intention of going on a strike to the state urban development department on April 7. A meeting was hastily arranged under the chairmanship of Mada managing director Alok Trivedi on April 13, which could not thaw the ice. A second meeting, under deputy commissioner Sunil Kumar Burnwal, is scheduled to take place on April 24,” Dubey said.
Speaking to The Telegraph on Sunday, Mada managing director Trivedi admitted that a majority of concerns of the employees were genuine. He, however, said that the civic body was helpless as its financial status was in a shambles. “But we will take a serious look at all their demands. We hope that a solution is reached at the meeting with DC Burnwal,” Trivedi said.
The colliery areas of Dhanbad — which consume close to 174 lakh gallons of water daily — will be the worst affected if Mada employees do go ahead with their threat.
Of 174 lakh gallons of water supplied to Digwadih, Patherdih, Lodna, Ghanudih, Dhansar, Bastacola, Loyabad, Putki, Katras, Kendua, Chatatand, Godhar, Sijua, Katras Bazar, Chatabad and Bhatmurna collieries, nearly 150 lakh gallons alone comes from Damodar River. Mada sources the remaining water from Topchanchi Lake.