Despite the poor participation in a rally organised at Azad Maidan on Wednesday to protest the new provisions of the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act (Mesma), 2011, which bring public transport under the law's ambit, trade union leader Sharad Rao has threatened to bring all essential services in the city to a halt if the act is not revoked.
Though Rao, president of Hind Mazdoor Sabha, did not specify the day of the strike, he said the agitation against Mesma will be a long-drawn battle, and will be held in stages.
A delegation of union leaders also met governor K Sankaranarayanan on Wednesday to demand that the legislation be withdrawn.
The new provisions in the act, passed in the state legislature last week, allow the government to penalise persons who instigate or fund strikes that disrupt public life. "We requested the governor not to approve the act. If it is enforced, we will respond to the anti-strike act with a strike. We [unions] have control over water supply, bank services, rickshaw and public bus transport. All these essential services will come to a halt to oppose the act," Rao said.
The provisions include transport services that carry passengers or goods, by land or water, for which the state has the power to make laws. In addition to these, gas supply, milk, maintenance of public health and sanitation, including hospitals and dispensaries, qualify as essential services, and employees working in these sectors cannot go on strike or enforce lockouts.
Union leaders said the next demonstration will be on May 1, when union members will sport black ribbons and badges at their workplaces.
Consumer activists, however, find Rao's threats to be hollow. Shirish Desphande, chairperson of Mumbai Grahak Panchayat, said: "I wish all the best to Sharad Rao in bringing all essential services in the city to a halt. He dare do it. I hope the people and government are taking note."