A day before ‘Black Day‘ was set to be observed countrywide by the Indian trade unions and farmers’ organizations to protest against the contentious farm laws and the labour codes, Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) 1966 was extended in the state of Uttar Pradesh through an official notification issued on May 25.
The act blanket bans all kinds of strikes for six months in public services, corporations, local authorities owned or controlled by the government in Uttar Pradesh. This includes employees who are involved in water supply, hospitals, sanitation, transportation, public conservancy, food grain distribution amongst others. The act also gives the police arbitrary powers like arresting anybody who violates the provisions, without any warrants.
ESMA was invoked for six months in the state last year during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in May 2020 by the Yogi government. Later on, it was further extended for six months in November 2020, India Today reported.
The act also has provisions for imprisonment up to one year and/or a fine which can extend up to Rs. 1,000 against those who organize stikes which are illegal under the act.
The extension has come in the face of growing discontent and anger among the masses in Uttar Pradesh against the Yogi government’s acute mismanagement of the COVID-19 situation and its other draconian measures. Even before the Act was extended the state government had been using authoritarian diktats to suppress every kind of criticism levelled against its functioning to an extent where civilians requesting oxygen and hospitals flagging oxygen shortage in the state were being threatened, harassed, and even arrested by the state police.
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