Employees’ unions firm despite Punjab government invokes ESMA ahead of pen-down strike by revenue staff

The employees have called for a strike from 1 September, over a corruption case against a "patwari" and a "kanungo" a week ago.

BySouth First Desk

Published Aug 31, 2023 | 11:53 AMUpdatedAug 31, 2023 | 11:53 AM

Mann warns revenue employees

The Punjab government has invoked the East Punjab Essential Services (Maintenance) Act (ESMA) of 1947 as the state revenue officials called for an indefinite pen-down strike from Friday, 1 September.

ESMA bars all government officials and employees from leaving their place of posting till 31 October or further orders.

In the order issued on Wednesday, Special Chief Secretary (Revenue), KAP Sinha stated, “Any violation of the order shall attract strict penal provisions under the ESMA. Penal provisions could lead to dismissal from service and imprisonment for up to three years.”

The orders were issued after Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann’s directions for stern action against the revenue officers who threatened to go on protest over the non-fulfillment of pending demands.

The employees’ unions, however, has decided to go ahead with the strike.

Strike from 1 September

Over 2,000 employees, under the banner of the Revenue Patwar Union and the Revenue Kanungo Association, have called for a strike from 1 September, over a corruption case registered against a “patwari” and a “kanungo” (both revenue officials) in the Sangrur district a week ago.

The DC Office Employees’ Association will observe a pen-down strike from 11-13 September to press for their various demands.

The chief minister has taken a strong stand against the strike. “Inconvenience caused to people on account of the whims and fancies of the revenue officers will not be tolerated at any cost,” he asserted.

Sinha’s order further stated that due to floods, immediate disbursement of relief material is needed for the affected population.

“The services of revenue officials, including ‘patwaris’, ‘kanungos’, circle revenue officers, and officials at deputy commissioner’s offices are required for maintenance of essential supplies and relief material, disbursement of crop compensation to farmers, etc.,” the order stated.

Also Read: CM Mann counters Punjab Governor over law and order

Mann’s warning

Earlier on Wednesday, Chief Minister Mann warned government officials planning the strike. He asked them not to proceed with their proposed strike for their vested interests or in support of those facing corruption charges.

Mann said the state government is firmly committed to wiping out corruption. It has adopted a zero-tolerance policy against corruption, and neither any corrupt element nor their sympathisers will be spared in the drive to make the system transparent, clean and effective in the larger public interest.

In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Mann said, “As per information, ‘patwaris’, ‘kanungos’, in favour of one of their colleagues involved in a bribery case, and DC (deputy commissioners’) office employees for their personal demands, are going on a pen-down strike.”

“I want to tell you that they are free to go ahead with the pen-down strike, but the state government will later decide whether to give them their pens back or not. We have many educated unemployed people who are ready to hold your pens. The people of Punjab will not be allowed to suffer,” he added.

Sinha also held talks with different associations of revenue staff to persuade them not to proceed with the strike plan but the officials, particularly, the “patwari” and “kanungo” union, have decided to go ahead with their plan.

Also read: Punjab police bust cross-border smuggling module

Will strike work: Union leaders

“We will not bow down before these threats by the chief minister. The kind of language the chief minister is using is deplorable. He has promised to look into our demands of increasing our wages and filling the vacancies,” Harbir Singh Dhindsa, state president of the union, said.

In the past year, the revenue staff had gone on strike on three occasions, demanding the government to accept their demands.