What is Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA)?

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Overview:

The Odisha Government recently invoked the Orissa Essential Services (Maintenance) Act (ESMA) prohibiting strikes by paramedical staff, including nurses, pharmacists, technicians, Class III and IV employees, to ensure that medical services are not disrupted.

About Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA)

  • It is an act of the Indian Parliament enacted in 1968 to assure the supply of certain services that, if impeded, would harm people’s daily lives. 
  • It is enforced to prohibit striking employees from refusing to work in certain essential services. Employees cannot cite bandhs or a curfew as an excuse not to report to work. 
  • Which services fall under this category?
    • Services relating to public conservation, sanitation, water supply, hospitals, or national defence are essential.
    • Any establishment involved in producing, delivering, or distributing petroleum, coal, electricity, steel, or fertiliser also gets classified as providing essential services. Aside from that, any banking-related service may be subject to ESMA.
    • This statute also applies to communication and transportation services and any government initiative relating to the acquisition and distribution of food grains.
  • State governments, acting alone or collaborating with other state governments, can enforce their respective acts in specified territories.
  • Each state has its own ESMA, with provisions that differ slightly from the federal statute.
  • As a result, if the nature of the strike disturbs only one or more states, the states can initiate it.
  • The Act also allows states to choose the essential services on which to enforce ESMA.
  • In a nationwide interruption, particularly involving railways, the central government may activate the ESMA.
  • What actions can be taken against the employees?
    • Persons who commence the strike as well as those who instigate it are liable to disciplinary action, which may include dismissal.
    • As the strike becomes illegal after ESMA is invoked, legal action can also be taken against these employees.
    • Any police officer is empowered to arrest the striking person without a warrant.
    • Persons participating in or instigating the strike are punishable with imprisonment, which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.

Q1) What is the Essential Commodity Act?

Essential Commodities Act grants the government authority over the production, supply, and distribution of specific goods. The legislation ensures that supplies are maintained and/or increased and distributed fairly and at a reasonable price. The act is also meant to combat unethical business activities such as hoarding and black-marketing.

Source: Odisha invokes ESMA to ban strikes by Health Department staff