PNS n Vijayawada
The Andhra Pradesh government on Saturday decided to invoke the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) against the ongoing strike by Anganwadi workers. The Anganwadi employees have been on strike for the past 26 days, seeking resolution to their issues. The government, in response, has classified Anganwadis as essential emergency services through Government Order No. 2.
Under the Emergency Services Management Act of 1971, the government has issued an order prohibiting the strike. This empowers the government to dismiss Anganwadi workers who continue the strike in violation of official directives.
Individuals persisting with the strike may face prosecution, with potential penalties including six months of imprisonment for those participating and one year for those providing cooperation.
Reports indicate that Anganwadi workers’ and helpers’ wages have been deducted by Rs 3,000 for the strike period. Simultaneously, a sum of Rs 8,050 has been deposited in their accounts.
ESMA, enacted by the Central government in 1981, ensures the uninterrupted provision of specified emergency services during strikes. Both central and state governments can utilise this Act to prohibit strikes by government employees and impose penalties.
Addressing the media following the ESMA announcement, protesting Anganwadi workers in Vijayawada asserted their commitment to continuing their protest within the bounds of the law. They criticised the government for employing ESMA, citing concerns about receiving minimum wages and gratuity. Some workers expressed discontent, stating that the government lacked a clear understanding of the individuals to whom the law should be applied.
Throughout the 26-day strike, workers have staged protests at various locations, including in front of collectorates, demanding fair wages and gratuity. Incidences of police detaining protesters have been reported across multiple districts.