Employees End Strike With Massive Rally13 March 2010
Srinagar: Braving water cannon, thousands of government employees staged a massive rally in central Srinagar on Saturday to culminate their five-day strike, accepting the cabinet’s offer of talks on March 19 but warning the government of the dire consequences of failure. Government machinery in all the three regions of the state remained crippled for the fifth day, and rallies were held at various district headquarters in solidarity with employees in Srinagar and Jammu. Thousands of employees held a sit-in at Lal Chowk, the commercial hub of the summer capital, after marching in large processions from separate locations. Joining at the old secretariat complex, the marchers were targeted by the police on their way to Lal Chowk, but they ploughed on through the resistance and made it to the city center. With the air ringing with anti-government slogans, union leaders addressed the rally to warn the government against adopting a confrontationist attitude with the employees. The president of one faction of the Employees Joint Action Committee (EJAC) and a constituent of the Joint Consultative Committee (JCC), Khursheed Aalam, said that the decisions taken during the March 19 talks would be final, and if the government remained adamant, the employees would launch a mass movement. Aalam said that the steps the government had taken during the past five days were against the public interest, and advised it to take positive measures to concede the employees’ demands. In his speech, the chief of another EJAC faction, Abdul Qayoom Wani, said that employees had remained firm and shaken the government to its foundations. He claimed that several politicians and bureaucrats had tried to split the employees’ unity, but they had not been allowed to succeed. “They also tried bullying and intimidation, and threatened to invoke ESMA, POTA and TADA, but the employees remained steadfast,” Wani said. Wani said that the March 19 talks with the government would be decisive, and that it should see reason as the next stage in the agitation would be tougher still. The JCC held a meeting in the afternoon, calling the five-day strike to an end, and deciding to have another round of talks with the government on March 19. The JCC said that the commissioner secretary for the general administrative department had contacted Wani and Aalam, and invited them to the secretariat for talks on March 19. The government has named a cabinet sub-committee to hold talks with employees unions, and it is comprised of the finance minister Abdul Rahim Rathar, minister for law, Ali Muhammad Sagar, ministers SS Slathia, and Taj Mohiuddin, while Peer Muhammad Sayeed, Basharat Ahmad Dhar and the principal secretary to the chief minister too will remain present.