Panaji, Oct 16 (IANS) The main opposition Congress in Goa on Wednesday condemned Tourism Minister Manohar Ajgaonkar’s threat to invoke the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) against over 200 lifeguards who are on strike demanding prompt payment of wages and better work conditions.
A day after Ajgaonkar, who is also the Deputy Chief Minister, threatened to invoke ESMA against the striking lifeguards, state Congress spokesperson Swati Kerkar reiterated the party’s demand to sack the Tourism Minister for his shoddy handling of beach safety and maintenance issues, including the strike by lifeguards.
“Chief Minister Pramod Sawant should immediately remove Tourism Minister Manohar Ajgaonkar from the Cabinet for his arrogant and insensitive remark against the lifeguards who are only protesting against delay in payment of salaries and want humane work conditions,” Kerkar said.
Over 200 of the 600-strong force of lifeguards employed by a private beach maintenance and safety contractor Drishti Marine, have been on strike since last week, triggering a political war of words between the Congress and the BJP.
While the Chief Minister has dismissed the strike as an “internal matter” between Drishti Marine and the lifeguards, the opposition has alleged the government was openly backing the private contractor over “very real” issues raised by the striking lifeguards. Earlier this week, Sawant also extended the beach safety contract with the private beach safety company for six more months.
“Instead of scrapping the contract and taking action against the contractor for providing less than human work conditions and delayed salaries, the government is trying to threaten the local lifeguards with ESMA. This shows the insensitive attitude of the government towards Goans and the common man…” Kerkar said.
Ever since the strike started last week, two persons have drowned off Goa’s beaches which attract hundreds of thousands of tourists every year.