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Home guards up in arms

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 19: Home guards across Odisha have threatened to go on a strike from the New Year’s Day if their demands for security, stopping arbitrary action against them and reinstatement of around 1,200 guards, who have been illegally dismissed from their jobs, are not met.

Under the banner of the Nikhila Utkal Gruharakhi Mahasangha, the guards today said that they would present their demands before the higher authorities, including the additional director general in charge of home guards.

President of the association Sanjay Behera said more than 17,500 home guards were helping state police.

“Though the police say home guards are voluntary workers, they involve us in works ranging from household chores at officers’ residences to night patrol without weapon. They are treating us like bonded labourers,” said Behera.

He said the officers took revenge on the poorly paid guards by illegally retrenching them for their slightest of faults. “On being asked, the officers used to say that the home guards were retrenched by the review board for poor performance. The guards were not given chances to explain their position,” said Behera.

A home guard said though Rs 20 were deducted from their daily remuneration in exchange of mosquito nets, blankets and other things, they did not get any facility. They demanded an inquiry into the misappropriation and said the money to be kept in a welfare fund for home guards. They also alleged that many senior police officers took bribes while recruiting new personnel.

“We want firearms on duty. Besides, the home guard should be separated from the police like the fire brigade,” said secretary of the association Banamali Mahant.

Though the state government had recently hiked their daily remuneration from Rs 150 to Rs 200, they demanded it to be made around Rs 400 and a bicycle allowance for those, who went more than 8km to do their duties.

In June, the home guards had ceased work for 12 days, demanding pay hike. The state police were affected because of the strike, which forced the state government to increase their remuneration by Rs 50.

Additional director general, home guard, Binay Kumar Behera, said he had no information about the demands of the guards. “I do not know what exactly they want. As for retrenchment, local commandants take the decision following a review board. After I get their memorandum, I will comment on it,” he said.