Punjab power board workers on strike, security deployed

Chandigarh, April 15 (IANS) Over 65,000 employees of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) went on a two-day strike from Thursday midnight leading to tension in several parts of the state and heavy deployment of police and paramilitary personnel to ward off trouble.
The administration also imposed orders prohibiting people from gathering in groups and carrying weapons in various parts of the state, including in and around PSEB units.

A senior Punjab police official said: “We have made sufficient security arrangements all across the state to avoid any kind of untoward incident. We are keeping an eye on antisocial elements and nobody will be allowed to indulge in sabotage and arson.”

Unions had also gone on a sudden strike March 30 to oppose the privatisation move and seek redressal of their demands for workers’ welfare.

The Punjab cabinet is scheduled to hold its meeting Thursday to finalise the unbundling of the PSEB into various private hands.

Many farmer organisations are also supporting the PSEB in the strike. The Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta-Ugrahan group) has called for a road blockade in Malwa region Friday.

Although the striking employees assured that they would not disrupt power supply, they also maintained that their services would not be available under any circumstances during the protest.

The new strike call was given after repeated rounds of talks between the state government and the unions failed to work out a solution.

“The PSEB has made arrangements to ensure smooth power supply during these two days (Thursday and Friday). Protesting employees will not be allowed to disrupt the functions of our units,” PSEB chairperson H.S. Brar told reporters here Thursday.

Sources in the PSEB said the state government also alerted the Indian army and its help can be sought in case of emergency.

The Punjab police Wednesday brought out flag marches in various towns to instil confidence among the people.

However, local residents expressed their apprehensions regarding the strike. Towns like Zirakpur, Banur, Derabassi and some parts of Mohali have started facing electricity cuts from Thursday morning.

“There is no electricity since 8 a.m. The strike will certainly add to our woes as nobody is picking the phone at the complaint centre and obviously there would be nobody to rectify the fault,” said Zirakpur resident Mahinder Bhatia.

The PSEB asked hospitals, railway authorities and other essential services across the state to make alternate arrangements in view of the strike.

The PSEB is suffering cumulative losses of hundreds of crores of rupees annually and is unable to meet the rising demand for electricity in the state.
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