| Employees prevent Bihar State Power (Holding) Company Ltd chairperson-cum-managing director Sandeep Poundrik (extreme right) from entering Vidyut Bhavan in Patna on Saturday. Picture by Ranjeet Kumar Dey |
Patna, Sept. 14: Vidyut Bhavan, the power companies’ headquarters, remained the epicentre for the second consecutive day as hundreds of engineers and power union members gathered to protest Friday’s police brutality.
The agitators not only skipped duty today but also misbehaved with and beat up four chief engineers. They did not allow energy department secretary and Bihar State Power (Holding) Company Ltd chairman-cum-managing director Sandeep Poundrik and others to enter the office.
Poundrik’s efforts to make the protesters return to work provide futile and he himself had to go back. Bihar State Power Transmission Company Ltd MD Sanjay Kumar Singh, too, left. They were the lucky ones. The protesters did not spare four chief engineers, namely SKP Singh, S.K. Singh, C.L. Prakash and D.N. Tiwari. S.K. Singh, chief engineer (commercial) of North Bihar Power Distribution Company Ltd, was caught and beaten up badly. He suffered a head injury. SKP Singh was roughed up but managed to scale Vidyut Bhavan’s second gate and flee on a bike.
No police force was deployed near Vidyut Bhavan, which had turned into a battlefield on Friday. Asked about the chief engineers being beaten up, Power Engineering Service Association (Pesa) vice-president J.P. Singh told The Telegraph: “The tragic incident may have happened because of mob frenzy or could be some traitors’ plan to dilute our agitation. But, our peaceful protest will go on till the matter is resolved through dialogue, scheduled for Monday, with the energy minister.”
When pointed out that power supply was cut deliberately at chief minister Nitish Kumar’s health programme in Rabindra Bhavan, Singh said: “It may have happened for some other reason. It is not part of our agitation. Power supply is normal and the common man is not inconvenienced.”
When power employees went on an indefinite strike on Friday after the police crackdown to break their protest, the city had plunged into darkness. The strike was called off around 11pm on Friday after the government agreed to set arrested engineers free and not to go after the protesters. Vidyut Kamgar, Padadhikari, Abhiyanta Sanyukta Sangharsh Morcha, an umbrella association of 17 different unions of engineers and employees, has sought a judicial probe of the alleged police brutality.
The energy minister is to hold talks with power unions on Monday over their seven-point charter of demands, the NBPDCL MD’s removal for his misconduct with engineers and against a recruitment policy that allows lateral entry.
If the talks fail, it could mean a rerun of Friday when power in most parts of the city was cut off around 4pm and restored around 3am on Saturday before it fully stabilised after 8am. Even during a major grid failure in the north, north-eastern and eastern regions on July 31, 2012, power supply was cut around 1pm and restored by 11pm in Patna. Friday’s being a man-made problem, restoration should not have taken 10-12 hours.
“My son has undergone a laser surgery for kidney stone. I came to my relative’s place in Rajiv Nagar thinking the inverter would help him have a sound sleep. But, the inverter went off around midnight,” said Neeraj Singh of Muzaffarpur. Neha, a resident of Rajiv Nagar, said: “I didn’t send my child to school as nobody had a good night’s sleep last night. We woke up after 8am.”
“People had to suffer because of chief minister Nitish Kumar’s stubborn attitude. He could have acted right after the engineers went on strike, instead of holding talks around 10pm,” Kankerbagh resident Janmejay Kumar said.