Tuesday, January 25, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

UP stalemate continues
Govt appoints junior engineers

LUCKNOW, Jan 24 (PTI, UNI) — The Uttar Pradesh Government today began working on its threat by issuing appointment letters to 50 junior power engineers to replace the dismissed striking employees of the state electricity board as the stand-off between the two sides continued, an official spokesman here said.

The newly appointed JEs had appeared in the competitive examination and interviews held last year, he said, adding the government would appoint more JEs to fill in the vacancies caused by the termination of the striking employees, who are agitating against restructuring the loss-making board.

The process for recruiting assistant engineers would start from January 27, he said.

The government has also invited applications for appointing clerks and technicians to replace the terminated powermen, he added.

About 90,000 employees of the UPSEB struck work for the 10th day today to protest the trifurcation of the board.

Undeterred by the spectre of the agitation spreading beyond Uttar Pradesh, the state government, further hardening its stand, rejected the demand of the state Joint Action Committee, which is spearheading the stir, to release three union leaders to help facilitate resumption of talks.

Four rounds of talks have been held so far with the government sticking to its stand to trifurcate the UPSEB and striking leaders demanding immediate withdrawal of the notification to this effect.

Efforts to hold fresh rounds of negotiations between the two sides failed to make any headway last night as the UP Powermen Joint Action Committee (UPPJAC) demanded release of their three key arrested leaders so that talks could be held with them to evolve a consensus on issues to be discussed during the negotiations.

“At present talks have no meaning for us because the government on one hand wants us to give an undertaking not to discuss power reforms and on the other it is not releasing the three key leaders, Shailendra Dubey, Raja Ram Mishra and A.K. Singh,” UPPJAC Media Convener S.B. Singh said.

Official sources said the doors for talks were always open but maintained that the notification trifurcating the UPSEB would not be rescinded.

The UPPJAC media convener said the committee members who were present at the talks yesterday also made it clear to Energy Minister Naresh Agarwal that negotiations could not be held unless it had its quorum comprising senior union leaders at present lodged in jails.

“The government must give us a message that it is creating a conducive and congenial atmosphere to hold talks,” he said.

“In fact, last night’s meeting with the Energy Minister failed to take off when he showed an adamant attitude regarding release of the three key leaders and hold talks with the second and third generation leaders of striking powermen,” he claimed.

The action committee is holding a meeting to discuss its future strategy, he added.

Meanwhile, according to a report from New Delhi, the Northern India Power Engineers Federation (NIPEF) employees today started an indefinite strike protesting the government’s move to restructure the Uttar Pradesh State Electricity Board (UPSEB).

“We are on pen down and tool down strike from today and no talks have begun with the government,” President of NIPEF D.K. Puri told PTI.

Mr Puri, however, claimed that the entire northern region which was already facing power crisis would have to witness more problems due to the strike of NIPEF.

The engineers are not working and electrical lines which are down are also not being attended to by the workers, he said adding 70 per cent of the engineers were on strike.

With the Delhi Vidyut Board Engineers not joining the one-day token strike called by the All-India Power Engineers Federation today, Delhi Power Minister Narendra Nath today expressed optimism about the city not facing any power crisis as a fallout of the ongoing stir by power employees in Uttar Pradesh.

“None of the DVB engineers have gone on strike. The situation in the capital is normal,” Mr Narendra Nath said.

DVB Chairman Jagdish Sagar said that “contingency measures” had been put in place to deal with any untoward situation. However, he refused to give any details.

Asked if the stiff opposition to the power privatisation plans in Uttar Pradesh would prevent the Delhi Government from going ahead with similar plans, the sources said the city government plans pertained to corporatisation of the energy sector and not its privatisation.

Meanwhile, the All-India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF) today threatened to resume the nationwide agitation anytime after the Republic Day if the stalemate between the Uttar Pradesh government and its striking power sector workers continued.

In a statement here, association secretary D.K. Puri claimed that the strike was “complete” in Punjab, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, while a work-to-rule agitation was resorted to in other states.

The Indian Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU) has also expressed their support and solidarity with the employees of six states, who are on strike in support of the striking Uttar Pradesh State Electricity Board employees for the past several days.

The national committee of IFTU condemns the “repressive measures” adopted by the state government to desist the employees from participating in the strike, an IFTU statement said.

A report from Jaipur said the Rajasthan State Electricity Board employees went on a 24-hour token strike from midnight last to express their solidarity with agitating UP powermen and threatened to prolong their stir indefinitely if UP power impasse was not resolved soon.

According to a report from Bhopal, normal power supply was maintained in Madhya Pradesh today despite the state electricity board (MPEB) employees going on a one-day token strike to render support to 10-day-old strike of Uttar Pradesh State Electricity Board (UPSEB) employees.

A report from Jabalpur quoting MPEB officials said power supply remained normal at almost all places,in view of the precautionary arrangements made by the board.

Meanwhile, MPEB Employees Ekta Manch spokesman Manoj Jain clarified that the organisation’s comprising 18 federations, day-long strike in support of the striking UP employees was merely symbolic. ‘it would not affect the power supply’, he said, adding MPEB engineers and employees engaged in the panchayat elections were exempted from the strike.

A section of the employees of the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB), owing allegiance to the CITU, struck work here today as part of the nationwide strike.

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