Striking government employees took to the streets to protest over the Jammu and Kashmir

With ESMA in force, police detained six leaders of employee unions agitating for release of arrears under the 6th Pay Commission, even as the determined protesters extended the strike to April 13.

Striking government employees took to the streets here on Tuesday to protest over the Jammu and Kashmir Government’s decision to invoke the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) against them.

The employees, who have been on strike for the last three days to press their demand for the release of arrears prescribed by the Sixth Pay Commission Report and the enhancement of retirement age from 58 to 60, held protests at different places across the city.

It has been reported that over 450,000 employees have gone on strike, affecting all government-run institutions.

The Joint Consultative Committee (JCC), Employees Joint Action Committee (EJAC) and Civil Secretariat Employees union (CSEU) called the strike after talks between the government and the employees failed to break the deadlock over the staff’s demands for release of arrears prescribed by the Sixth Pay Commission Report.

"The government had promised to pay our arrears last year, but now it is not fulfilling its promise. Employees were not in favour of strike, but after looking at the despotic attitude of the state government, now we have decided to go against ESMA till April 12," said Ram Kumar Sharma, a leader of the EJAC.

The employees were told that their salaries would be changed as per the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission and would be paid to them after the assembly elections in November-December 2008.

The hiked salaries were given to the employees from Aug 1, 2009, but the arrears due to them from Jan 1, 2006, to July 31, 2009, have not been paid.

The state’s cabinet on Monday, at a meeting chaired by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, decided to impose ESMA, which will deny employees their salaries if they do not come for work.

All government offices, government schools, civil secretariat and Public Service Undertakings (PSUs) remained closed on Monday on a call given by various employee unions. Only emergency services in hospitals continued unhindered.

All directorate level offices in Srinagar remained closed, including the directorate of the Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution (CAPD).