Over 300 striking staff of Puducherry government’s electricity department were taken into custody when they held a demonstration at the head office here to oppose the dispensation’s move to privatise power distribution. A group of employees gathered at the main entrance of the head office in Uppalam late on Sunday night raising slogans. Police intervened and initially made appeals to the staff to disperse.
But the staff continued the agitation and police detained all the employees by lodging them in a community hall on the precincts of state-run JIPMER last night. The Union Territory administration had earlier on Sunday declared as ‘illegal’ the ongoing strike by electricity department staff.
Home and Electricity Minister A Namassivayam had warned the staff that the government would take stern action if the staff persisted in the strike. The administration has reasoned that the proposal to privatise power distribution was “to increase efficiency and consumer satisfaction".
Twenty-four staff of the central power grid have been requisitioned to ensure that power supply was not disrupted anywhere in the UT. The government also requisitioned paramilitary forces and deployed the personnel at various centres, including power installations, to prevent any disruption.
Power supply which was hit on Saturday night across Puducherry region was restored in a phased manner much to the relief of the residents. Lieutenant Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan, who reviewed the situation by holding discussions with officials of the electricity department, had warned the striking staff that the government would not hesitate to invoke provisions of the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) in the larger interest of the public.
Opposition Congress legislator M Vaithianathan, who held road roko agitation along with residents of his constituency on Saturday, told reporters on Sunday that the staff should not cause hardship to the people with frequent power outages. “We are against privatisation of the power sector. But the staff should not hold the people to ransom through disruption in power supply," he said.
The staff have been on strike since September 28 protesting the move to open up power distribution to private discoms.