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CIMA Gallary

Home guards on warpath

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 24: City police are in for trouble, as the very home guards who are helping them maintain law and order and patrol, are planning to cease work and stage a protest from March 11.

They plan to protest first by wearing black badges for 10 days and then sit on dharna on Mahatma Gandhi Marg. If required, they said, would even break barricades.

As the Assembly budget session is on, attempts by protesters to break security barricades will pose a big problem to the cops.

Of around 1,700 home guards in the state capital, the majority have been deployed near the state Assembly for this session. After they start their protest on March 11, the police will face a shortage of personnel as well as a challenge from the home guards.

“They have not given us any letter nor communicated about their protests. If they stage an agitation, we will continue our work with the available force,” said a senior police officer of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar police.

In the past three days, five protesting groups have attempted to enter the prohibited zone around the Assembly by breaking the security barricade and this has forced the cops to resort to baton charge. As this is the last budget session of this government, more such protesting groups are expected to resort to such activities to force the government to fulfil their demands.

“The threat of home guards will make our work really difficult,” said a policeman. The home guards said that in January they had staged a protest, which had forced the state government to promise to fulfil their demands within two months.

“The two-month deadline is going to expire soon, but the authorities have not even thought about discussing our demands. We will write to the chief minister, chief secretary, home secretary, director general of police and other officials regarding our stand if our demands are not fulfilled by March 1,” said Sanjay Behera, president of Nikhila Utkal Gruharakhi Mahasangha.

Behera said the home guards would go to work wearing black badges from March 1 to March 10 and if the demands remain unfulfilled, an agitation would be held on MG Road on March 11.

The home guards have given the state government a six-point demand, which includes that they should be declared fourth grade employees and reinstatement of “illegally” retrenched home guards. They have also demanded a hike in their daily remuneration from Rs 200 to Rs 400.

Additional director general of police Binay Behera, who is in-charge of the home guards, said he had not received any letter from the home guards. “Their earlier demands of hike in remuneration from Rs 150 to Rs 200 had been fulfilled last year. Only after I get their letter can I comment on it,” said Behera.