In an assembly election year when the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Madhya Pradesh is out to win voters with its round-the-clock power supply scheme, about 3,000 engineers working with six state-run electricity distribution companies (Discoms) have threatened to go on an indefinite strike from the first week of June if their long pending demands are not fulfilled.
Apparently, the Madhya Pradesh Electricity Board Engineers’ Association has taken the decision to strike at a time when the Atal Jyoti Abhiyan, the MP government’s ambitious non-stop electricity supply scheme, is being vigorously implemented.
The engineers’ main demand is to make pension fund operational, which means the state government will have to shell out approximately Rs 11,600 crore for the purpose. The engineers have given 15 days time to the government to act.
“The state government can deposit Rs 11,600 crore in pension fund in the next five years. If this is not possible, the government should give us a written assurance that it will take care of our pension needs in case Discoms are privatised,” MP Electricity Board Engineers’ Association general secretary Pavan Jain said.
The association fears that if the Discoms get privatised in future, the fund formed in 2005-06 will not have enough cash to disburse pension to retired engineers. The project, which is to be completed by June 30, 2013, will be severely hit if the engineers go on strike.
The engineers play a key role in installation, erection, commissioning, supervision, operation and maintenance of all power supply projects in MP. Their stir will also affect power supply from power plants.
Their other demand is revision of fringe benefits, which include travelling, dearness and housing allowance. An engineer, requesting anonymity, said Discoms pay them Rs 120 per day for food on official visits to other cities. “It is too low by any standard. All our demands are pending since 2005,” he said.
The association has engineers from the rank of assistant engineers to executive directors in an electricity distribution company.