In anticipation of the indefinite strike threat from the Metro Union recurring, the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) has written to the Centre asking it to urgently notify all Metro Railway Services as ‘Essential Services’ under the Central Government’s Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA).
The state government had already brought the Bangalore Metro Rail Service under its ESMA through a notification on March 12, shortly before the first call for indefinite strike was given last month. In the letter written on April 21 by BMRCL Managing Director Mahendra Jain to the Urban Affairs Secretary in New Delhi, Mr.Jain had urged Centre for issuing such a notification under Section-2(1) (a) (XVii) of ESMA 1981.
Metro railway services have become indispensable in assisting commuters to reach their destination. It has also helped in reducing traffic congestion and pollution. “Therefore, it is in the national and public interest to see that Metro Railway Services are not disrupted even for a single day by employees resorting to strike.” At the time of passing of ESMA, the concept of Metro Railway Services did not exist. “Hence, it was not included as an Essential Service under the said Act,” the letter states. It pointed out that Metro Railway Services are also not covered under the definition of Railways Service under Section 2 (1) (a) (ii) as it is being operated within the municipal limits.
“Metro employees are public servants under Section 90 of the Metro Railway (Operation and Maintenance) Act, 2002. “Therefore, there is urgent need to notify ‘Metro Railways Services’ being operated in various cities to be notified as ‘Essential Service’ under Section (2) (1) (a) XVII of the ESMA, 1981.” On March 21, the state’s urban development department had brought Bangalore Metro Rail Service under Karnataka ESMA in a letter signed by deputy secretary KK Hidayathulla.
A different case pertaining to ESMA is still pending with the High Court. BMRCL had filed an interlocutory application to vacate the stay granted in connection with its invocation of ESMA on its employees on July 7, 2017. Asked about the recent move, state advocate general Madhusudhan R Naik told that the public stand would get affected enormously if the Metro strike takes place. “The state is fully within its right to take such remedial measures by seeking central assistance as Metro is an essential service. Such extreme steps like depriving the public of transportation cannot be taken.”