police heat prompts strike
| Policemen beat up a protester at Income Tax roundabout on Friday. Picture by Deepak Kumar |
the five power
stage protest at
the gates of Vidyut
Bhavan from 1pm
around 2pm after
throw stones at
Vidyut Bhavan roof
Policemen reportedly beat up
anyone they could lay their hands on
Arrests: Around 35. Their
background is being verified
Injured: Around 30, including
journalists and passers-by. Some
were released after first-aid
Hundreds of employees of the power companies clashed with police on the streets of the city on Friday, prompting the protesters to launch their proposed indefinite strike immediately.
Sources said the police resorted to severe lathicharge and fired several rounds of teargas shells to break up the protest of the employees of Bihar State Power (Holding) Company Ltd, North Bihar Power Distribution Company Ltd, South Bihar Power Distribution Company Ltd, Bihar State Power Transmission Company Ltd and Bihar State Power Generation Company Ltd.
“We were protesting peacefully when the police attacked us,” said Power Engineers’ Service Association (Pesa) general secretary Ashwini Kumar. He and around 30 others were arrested, and are being held at Kotwali police station.
The police, on the other hand, claimed that they had been forced to resort to stronger methods of removing the protesters when they started to rain stones and pebbles on them.
City superintendent of police Jayant Kant said: “The protesters had gathered at Vidyut Bhavan since morning. There was a long traffic snarl on Bailey Road, right from Income Tax roundabout. We tried every method to convince them to clear the road. But they turned violent and started to vandalise the vehicles on the road. Some of them also attacked the police with stones. We had to use force to bring the situation under control.”
Sources said hundreds of member of one-and-a-half dozen unions had gathered at the gates of Vidyut Bhavan — the headquarters of the five power companies — on Bailey Road. They began to stage a protest to press for their seven demands, including the removal of North Bihar Power Distribution Company managing director Sanjay Kumar Agrawal and abolishment of recruitment policy that allows lateral entry.
The trouble started around 2pm when the police began to lathicharge the protesters, reportedly after some of them threw stones at the cops from the roof of Vidyut Bhavan. They used an anti-riot vehicle to break down the gate of the building and started to pull out employees working inside, and thrashing them on the street. “They spared no one. It was a horrific scene,” said a woman employee later.
|Traffic snarl on Bailey Road because of the protest.
Picture by Ranjeet Kumar Dey
Even passers-by who had nothing to do with the protest and journalists covering the incident were not spared the wrath of the enraged policemen. Power Engineers’ Service Association general secretary Ashwini said: “We have managed to capture the police brutality on camera.”
Asked about the reported police brutality, district magistrate N. Saravana Kumar said: “An inquiry would be conducted into the incident.”
The employees have decided to go on strike immediately instead of September 25, as originally scheduled.
Pesa vice-president Jitendra Pratap Singh, who has been called to negotiate with the management, said: “We hope to resolve the problem through dialogue.” Till the filing of this report, no resolution had been reached.
The employees promised that there would be no blackout in the state but since 4pm on Friday, different parts of Patna were plunged into darkness.
Chief minister Nitish Kumar held a meeting with senior officials, including chief secretary A.K. Sinha, principal home secretary Amir Subhani and director-general of police Abhayanand to take stock of the situation. The meeting had not ended till the time of filing of the report .
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