Mumbai: Now, think twice before you instigate, finance or even participate in an illegal strike for it will land you in jail. If convicted, any person engaged in an essential or public service who supports a strike will face a prison term of up to one year, or be slapped with a fine of up to Rs 2,000, or both. The police can arrest offenders without a warrant and the offence has been made non-bailable. In other words, those booked in an illegal strike case will have to move court to get bail.
A notification to this effect came into force on Friday, following a presidential nod to amendments in the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act, 2011 (MESMA). The state legislative assembly had sought approval for the amendments to the Act after they were cleared during the winter session in Nagpur last December.
“If striking employees in any sector (be it public, private or unorganized) are to adversely impact public life and the concerned establishment notifies the strike as illegal, then the employees refusing to work can be booked under the amended Essential Services Act,” said P S Meena, additional chief secretary, general administration department.
According to the amendments, an essential service includes public transport such as autorickshaws, taxis and school buses, or individuals employed in hospitals, government, semi-government establishments, high court employees, civic staff, teaching staff, or even those who are engaged in the supply of milk, water, gas and electricity.
The amendment has not gone down well with unions. A state gazetted office-bearer in Mantralaya said that strikes were a way of protest. “We do not like to trouble citizens. But by banning strikes, sometimes the only resort to air grievances, the government has taken an anti-worker stand.” TN law more stringent than Maha rules
Mumbai: Trade unions have criticized the amendments to the anti-strike legislation MESMA. Even BJP MLA Devendra Fadnavis, while participating in the legislative assembly debate in 2011, had raised queries over the blanket ban on strikes. He had raised concerns that the Act might be “misused” against those protesting in a rightful manner to meet their demands.
Refuting the allegations, a Mantralaya official said, “We are not against the rights of any person. The objective of introducing the amendment is to save citizens from various hassles during strikes.”
The official added that the amendments made in Maharashtra to the Act are “less stringent” than the rules that exist in Tamil Nadu. According to the Tamil Nadu Essential Services Act, those indulging in an illegal strike invite conviction and punishment with imprisonment up to three years and/or a fine of up to Rs 5,000.