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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 July, 2003, 14:28 GMT 15:28 UK
Strike hits Tamil Nadu
By Sampath Kumar
BBC correspondent in Madras

More than a million state government employees and teachers have gone on an indefinite strike in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

The Tamil Nadu Government says it will not accept the strikers' demands
Work in government offices, schools and colleges has been severely affected.

Unions representing the public employees called for the strike in protest at a cut in their pensions.

The state government has threatened to take severe measures against workers who continue their strike action.

Government employees and teachers are also demanding the restoration of bonus and leave payments

Financial crisis

Employees say the unexpected decision to cut pension benefits has affected thousands of retiring workers who had pinned hopes on their pension and bonuses.

The government says it cannot accept the demands as the state is currently in the middle of a financial crisis.

Striking unions called for the action after talks with the state's chief minister on 27 June.

They said the neighbouring state of Kerala was also facing a financial crisis but the authorities there have been able to restore most employee benefits.

Meanwhile, the government in Tamil Nadu has warned that it would impose strict measures under the Essential Services Maintenance Act if workers continue with the strike.

The Act allows the government to arrest and imprison striking workers, impose fines and dismiss them from service.

More than 100 leaders of the striking unions have already been arrested.

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