The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Strike braves jolt from Jaya

Chennai, July 3: Undeterred by the dismissal warning by Jayalalithaa, the majority of the 12.5 lakh state government employees and teachers demanding restoration of pension and other benefits kept away from work for the second day today across Tamil Nadu.

Many government offices in the city and in the districts wore a deserted look though nearly 1,200 striking staff have been arrested so far after the government invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act (Esma).

Official sources claimed that attendance at the secretariat, where 5,084 people are employed, improved to 27 per cent from just 12 per cent yesterday. An uneasy calm prevailed at the fortified secretariat complex and those who reported for duty seemed in no mood to work.

Jayalalithaa, however, went about her business as usual. Tomorrow, she will participate in a function at Tiruvellore district.

Recruitment of temporary staff on a stipend of a consolidated Rs 5,000 per month is expected to begin tomorrow to fill in for the absent employees. The step should boost attendance in government offices, sources said.

A section of state staff in Chennai alleged that they had been “goaded” by security personnel to attend office.

The chief secretary had reportedly instructed that all those who turned up for duty should sign the attendance register kept in the rooms of the respective departmental heads in the presence of the IAS officers heading the departments. The IAS/IPS cadre officers are among the small section that is not participating in the strike.

Though the government had threatened last evening that absent employees and those who “instigated” the strike would be suspended and later dismissed, it was not clear till this evening if suspension orders had been issued.

Since union leaders were the first to be arrested, employees at the secretariat said they had no clue what was happening. Mainstream trade union leaders, however, dubbed the government’s move to go in for en masse recruitment of temporary staff from the employment exchanges as “impractical”. “It is only a threat, they cannot do it to replace all the over 12 lakh staff,” said a CPI leader.

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