Intermediate examinees of the Bihar school examination board were left fretting as over three dozen towns and a sizeable population across the state, barring the state capital, were affected after 10,000-odd contractual workers, associated with the Bihar State Power Holding Company Limited (BSPHCL), struck work on Wednesday.
The power firm, however, claimed that the strike had no effect whatsoever after it successfully restored most of the affected feeders by evening.
Of the towns affected, nearly a dozen did not have power for the larger part of the day. Among some towns severely hit till Wednesday noon were Samastipur, Pur nia, Siwan, Sitamarhi, Sherghati, Munger, Rajgir, Islampur, Katihar, Gopalganj, Ara, Saharsa, Sonebarsa, Nirmali, Triveniganj, Buxar, Dumraon, Jehanabad and Masaurhi.
Mandarins in the two discoms were unable to put a figure to the number of towns or the population affected due to the strike. Despite committing to provide newspersons with information on power drawal from Central sectors and allotment to different grids during the day, the power firm did not make available the requisite information till the time of going to the press at 8pm. However, they spoke in terms of feeders and grids and said that the strike did not have any impact.
Addressing newspersons at the BSPHCL headquarters here on Wednesday, managing director of the south Bihar power distribution company limited (SBPDCL), Palka Sahni, said: "We have been able to restore 29 of the 34 feeders in the SBPDCL and 36 of the 48 feeders of 33 kV in north Bihar power distribution company limited that were affected due to the strike."
Even as the power brass claimed that doors for negotiations were always open for the striking employees, the BSPHCL had recommended the state government to invoke the essential services maintenance act (ESMA). A decision was awaited.
The management had also issued show-cause notices asking all its 1045 of the total 1571 contractual employees who did not report for duty on Wednesday why their service contract not be terminated. The managementfs stand has been that electricity being essential services should not be disrupted.
Contractual workers, including assistant and junior engineers, switch board operators, junior linesmen and ekhalasis' (unskilled labourers), most being outsource employees, are on the warpath under the banner of the Vidyut Karmi Sangharsh Morcha, demanding regularisation of service. While 1,571 employees are directly employed on contract with the power holding company, a majority have been engaged on outsource through private firms.
While contractual staff are demanding service regularisation, those engaged through an outsource firm want that the power firm engage them directly and extend all facilities as applicable to its bonafide employee. Powermen had given a notice for indefinite strike on February 3.