As the state government invoked the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act (MESMA), thousands of workers from three state-owned power companies embarked on a 72-hour strike on Wednesday, to protest their privatisation, as explained by a leader from the employees’ union.
The provisions of the act restrain the essential service employees of the three state-run power companies from participating in the strike. The Maharashtra government has directed that all essential efforts be taken to guarantee that the state’s electricity supply is not affected by the developments.
Thousands of employees from the three companies took part in the strike, which began at midnight, according to Krushna Bhoir, general secretary of the Maharashtra State Electricity Workers’ Federation. He claimed that the demonstration was going on peacefully across the state, and that the protesting employees were sitting in pandals set up outside their workplaces.
According to Bhoir, the state government has summoned them to a meeting, and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was scheduled to meet with members of the employee unions’ action committees at the Sahyadri Guest House around 1 pm. The state-owned power firms in question are Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Co Ltd (Mahavitaran), Maharashtra State Electricity Transmission Co Ltd (Mahapareshan), and Maharashtra State Electricity Generation Co Ltd (Mahanirmiti).
Last month, Maharashtra Rajya Karmachari, Adhikari and Abhiyanta Sangharsh Samiti, an action committee of 31 power company unions, began a protest over their different demands. Their main demand is that no ‘parallel distribution licence’ be granted to the Adani Group’s electricity unit. An Adani Group company applied for a licence to extend its electricity distribution operations into new districts of Mumbai in November 2022.
Adani Electricity Navi Mumbai Ltd, a subsidiary of Adani Transmission, had filed for a parallel licence with the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC), for power distribution in the Mahavitaran regions of Bhandup, Mulund, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Panvel, Taloja, and Uran.
Meanwhile, in order to preserve peace and safeguard the public property in the state, the Maharashtra government invoked MESMA on Tuesday night, after power company employees issued a strike warning. When the government invokes the MESMA Act, it provides the government and security institutions complete authority to take additional legal action. While the government has the authority to impose disciplinary sanctions such as expulsion from office, the police have the authority to arrest strikers. Those apprehended may face imprisonment for up to a year, a fine, or both in some situations.
“In view of the strike notice served by Maharashtra state electricity employees, officers, engineers, sangharsh sameetee (approx 30 unions)… the Government has decided to invoke provisions of the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act-2017 to ensure normalcy in the state,” stated the government resolution. It also instructed all subordinate authorities to take the necessary procedures to ensure a continuous supply of energy in the state.