| Workers and their family members block NH-23 at Lathikata in Sundargarh district on Saturday. Picture by Uttam kumar Pal |
Sambalpur, Nov. 12: Workers of Orind Refractory today blocked the National Highway 23 at Lathikata near Rourkela, demanding disbursement of their arrear dues and withdrawal of cases against 224 workers, who were arrested earlier.
“We have blocked the road demanding disbursement of the workers’ dues. Moreover, we demand withdrawal of all the cases registered against them,” said Biramitrapur MLA George Tirkey, who led the agitation.
“We demand release of the arrear salary of 14 months and the provident fund deposit of five months, which will be around Rs 24 crore,” Tirkey said.
“We have blocked the road for an indefinite period. We will not withdraw the agitation until the government resolves this problem. On September 23, at a tripartite meeting, the Odisha government had assured that the arrears would be cleared soon. On October 19, the chief secretary had announced that the problem would be resolved within seven days. But, they are yet to resolve it,” said one of the agitating workers.
“The workers here are suffering because of the government’s apathy. We have lost our faith in the government. Hence, we resorted to this agitation. We will sit on the road until the government solves the issue,” said Tirkey.
An agitator said: “We have no other way out but to resort to agitation. We have protested several times earlier, but the government is yet to take any visible step.”
Earlier, the workers had protested several times. The workers had also resorted to a rail roko disrupting rail service on the Bandomunda-Bimalagarh rail line last month.
Thousands of people, including more than 300 women, gathered at Lathikata near Rourkela to block the road.
Sundargarh collector Rupa Roshan Sahu convened a meeting of representatives of trade unions and plant management to resolve the impasse. The trade union leaders insisted that the dues should be cleared by November 14, as decided by the chief secretary. “We will intensify the agitation from November 15, if the dues are not cleared by Monday,” said Citu leader Bishnu Mohanty.
Local BJD MLA Subrat Tarai, who attended the meeting, said: “I am with the workers. But, they should have patience and not cause public inconvenience.”
The road blockade continued till evening.