Irate residents protest in Jharia on Thursday. Picture by Gautam Dey
Angry Jharia residents took to the streets by the hundreds on Thursday to protest against lack of basic civic amenities and water supply over the last four days due to an ongoing strike by 1,200 Mada employees, bringing traffic to a standstill for close to four hours.
Since 10am, groups of disgruntled residents gathered at various places including the busy Katras More, Indra Chowk, RSP College, Raja Talab and Bakrihat, disrupting traffic, and forcing vehicles headed for Dhanbad to take a 10km detour through Kendua.
The protests began at Katras More around 10am with more than 500 residents of adjoining areas like Chouthai Kulhi, Upper Kulhi, Hussainabad and Shamsher Nagar gathering at the chowk that connects Jharia and Sindri with Dhanbad. The protesters, armed with buckets, drums and pitchers, shouted slogans against the administration for its failure to solve the problem of unpaid Mada employees.
Similar was the scene near RSP College, Bakrihat, Indra Chowk and Raja Talab as groups of about 50 protestors tried to block all possible routes to Dhanbad through Jharia as vehicles stranded at Katras More tried to take a detour.
An attempt by Jharia police to break the blockade at Katras More around 11am failed as the protestors refused to budge. Around 1.30pm, police personnel led by officer-in-charge Srikant Upadhaya returned and convinced the residents that ongoing talks between Mada employees and the deputy commissioner was close to ending the impasse.
“If Mada employees are left with no option but to strike work for their salaries, we are also left with no option but to block roads as life has become a virtual hell with no water in our homes,” said Javed Ali, a resident of Hussainabad.
Senior BJP leader Rajkumar Agarwal, who was caught in the massive traffic snarl that ensued, sided with the protestors. “The common people are frustrated due to lack of water and their protest is justified,” he said.
An initial attempt by Jharia police to break the blockade at Katras More around 11am failed as the protestors refused to budge. Around 1.30pm, police personnel led by officer-in-charge Srikant Upadhaya returned to spot and convinced the residents that ongoing talks between Mada employees and the deputy commissioner was close to ending the impasse over unpaid dues.
“We convinced the agitated people that the talks which began around 1pm was expected to achieve some breakthrough following which the road blockade was withdrawn,” said Upadhyay.
However, the promised talks between the district administration led by deputy commissioner Prashant Kumar and Mada employees led by convenor of Pradhikar Karmachari Sangharsh Samanvaya Samiti Sudharshan Mahto remained inconclusive.