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Drivers bear baton brunt

Balurghat, March 22: Around two hundred drivers of motorised van-rickshaws were lathicharged after they broke a police cordon and tried to barge into the South Dinajpur district magistrate’s office today.

Members of the Sara Bangla Motor Van Chalak Union, backed by the SUCI, assembled at the district magistrate’s office around 1.30pm for a pre-scheduled “law violation” programme, demanding route permits and regularisation of their vehicles.

The SUCI called a 12-hour bandh in the district tomorrow in protest.

District superintendent of police Swapan Banerjee Purnapatra said his personnel had to swing into action after the protesters turned violent. “Three policemen, including the officer-in-charge of Tapan police station, were injured in jostling,” he said.

Jagadish Sarkar, the district secretary of the drivers’ union, said around 20 of them were injured. “Over 1,000 unemployed youths depend on this profession for a living. We want the government to regularise the motorised vans.”

District magistrate Asok Kumar Banerjee described the drivers’ demand as “absurd”. “There is no question of regularising them,” he said.

An official cited a high court ruling passed three years ago that had declared the motorised vans illegal.

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