Lucknow, Mar 19: Uttar Pradesh electricity department employees on Sunday ended their 72-hour strike after several rounds of talks between their leaders and state energy minister A K Sharma, saying the decision was taken to "respect the directions of the chief minister".

The protesting employees, who had started their strike at 10 pm on March 16, announced to call it off at around 3 pm on Sunday.

"A number of rounds of talks were held (with the government). We raised our problems and the (energy) minister agreed positively to fix them.

"Respecting the directions of the Chief Minister (Yogi Adityanath), the positive dialogue with the energy minister, and respecting the high court, we have decided to call off our 72-hour symbolic protest one day in advance in view of massive public interest," Shailendra Dubey, convener of Vidyut Karmacharis Sanyukt Sangharsh Samiti, said while announcing the withdrawal of the strike.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, UP energy minister Sharma said the government held several rounds of talks with the samiti.

"I thank the employees of the electricity department for calling off their protest...I would request them to direct their employee friends to resume their duties, especially at those places where power supply was disrupted, be it a feeder or a sub-station.

"Some of the points during the talks were documented. We will talk about those, and make an effort to try to take them to a logical conclusion," the minister said.

Sharma said he has instructed the chairman of the Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Limited to withdraw the action initiated against the employees.

On Saturday, the energy minister had issued a stern warning to the protesting employees, directing them to join their duties by 6 pm, or face dismissal.

"A decision has been taken to initiate action against 22 people from the department under ESMA (the Essential Services Maintenance Act). Apart from this, instructions have also been issued to lodge FIR against those damaging government property and obstructing others from discharging their duties. An FIR has been registered against 29 people in this matter," Sharma had said.

According to sangharsh samiti convener Dubey, there are 70,000 contractual employees in the electricity department.

The protesting employees had alleged that some of their demands relating to pay anomalies and outsourcing of operation and maintenance of power sub-stations, agreed to by the state government in December last year, have not been fulfilled by power corporations even after three months.

Earlier in the day, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav asked his party leaders and workers not to use inverters or generators till an end to the 72-hour-long strike called by employees of the electricity department.

"As the people of Uttar Pradesh are facing electricity crisis, I appeal to all the leaders, workers and well-wishers of the SP not to use alternative means such as inverters and generators personally until power supply is restored. The SP will undertake 'bijlee vrat' ('electricity fast') and will stand by the public," Yadav tweeted in Hindi.

The SP chief's tweet came before the strike was called off by the protesting employees.

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Davanagere: Two sanitation workers died after exposure to toxic air while they were cleaning a municipality drainagein Basavanakote village of Jagaluru taluk on Monday evening.

The deceased sanitation workers have been identified as Sathyappa (45) and Mailappa (42).

The duo is said to have been working without taking precautionary measures, as ordered by the panchayat development officer (PDO).

The workers were admitted to the government hospital in Arasikere on having fallen ill after breathing the toxic air of the drainage. Since their condition worsened, they were shifted to the Davanagere district government hospital, but the workers died, having failed to respond to the treatment.

The locals have blamed the government officer for the workers’ death, saying, “The sanitation workers went ahead with their work as ordered by the PDO, without any masks and gloves. The negligible attitude and lapse on the part of the PDO has caused the death of the workers.”

Bilichodu Police have filed a case in this regard and the investigation is underway.