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Workers threaten hunger strike

- Work-charged employees demand payment of salaries

Imphal, Dec. 18: Around 2,000 work-charged employees of different government departments in Manipur today decided to hold an indefinite hunger strike if their salaries were not paid by January 6.

These employees work in the power, public works, public health engineering and irrigation and flood control departments. They have been on strike since November 26 demanding payment of salaries for 19 months.

Since December 3, they are also not allowing any official vehicles inside the complexes of the four engineering departments.

There are no sanctioned posts for work-charged employees although they do the work of regular employees. They are engaged according to the work requirements of the departments.

“We have reviewed our agitation and decided to set January 6 as the deadline for the government to disburse our salaries. If we don’t get a positive response, we will hold an indefinite mass hunger strike from the next day,” said L. Chittaranjan Roy, a spokesman for the joint co-ordination committee of the work-charged employees of the engineering departments.

The threat to intensify the strike came despite a strong warning from senior officials of the respective departments that legal action would be initiated against them unless the strike was called off.

The problem started when the Okram Ibobi Singh government implemented the revised pay structure for government employees in 2011. While regular employees were given the revised pay, the work-charged employees got the old pay.

The government maintained that their salaries could not be paid because preparation of the Manipur Government Employees List for the engineering departments could not be completed. The striking employees rejected the clarification, saying the list was made long back.

“We have not been able to maintain our families and our children’s education has been disturbed. We are facing starvation because no shop is willing to give us our daily requirements on credit as unpaid amounts run into thousands of rupees. How can we survive when we have not got our salaries for nearly two years?” Roy asked.

The chairman of the joint co-ordination committee, Tikendrajit Singh, cautioned that workers might turn violent if the government remained silent to their suffering.

“We are prepared to face any government action and will continue the strike until our salaries are paid,” Gunamani Sharma, general secretary of the co-ordinating committee, said. The employees may also stop water supply to government offices if their hunger strike failed to move the government.