| NEC employees protest in Margherita in Tinsukia district on Saturday. Picture by Manash Pratim Gogoi |
Jorhat, Sept. 14: Employees of North Eastern Coalfields (NEC), a Coal India Limited subsidiary, today stopped work in protest against the alleged abduction of two of their colleagues by suspected militants.
The employees also threatened to block National Highway 38, if the authorities failed to ensure their safe release by Monday. Nearly 1,000 NEC employees staged a dharna in front of the Margherita-based office of the public sector company protesting the lackadaisical attitude of the authorities in dealing with the situation.
Brijnath Gaur and G. Adinarayan went missing from Tipong colliery under Lekhapani police station in Tinsukia district on Tuesday night while they were on night duty. The duo was in touch with the office till midnight but there was no news from them since the next morning.
Sources said the kidnappers had called Gaur’s family in Bihar demanding ransom for his release. However, they have not contacted the NEC authorities till now. “The kidnappers had called up Gaur’s family in Bihar from his mobile phone,” an NEC employee said on condition of anonymity. North Eastern Coalfields, a subsidiary of Coal India Ltd, started functioning in 1975.
The company mainly operates in Assam. Currently, they have six active coal mines in Bargoloi, Ledo, Tipong, Tikok, Jeypore, and Tirap, which contain a meagre quantity of coal reserves.
Atul Bora, president of Assam Colliery Mazdoor Congress, which is affiliated to Intuc, said the management has not taken any steps to ensure the safe release of the employees.
“It is very unfortunate that the two general managers, Debasis Sarkar, general manager (administration) and A.K. Bharali, general manager (operations), are both out of station since the day of the kidnapping. They should have immediately rushed back after such an incident took place,” he said.
Bora said the employees were feeling insecure in performing their duty, especially in the coalfields located along the inter-state border with Arunachal Pradesh owing to constant threat by militants and miscreants.
“Last year, four of our employees were kidnapped by militants from across the border but they were fortunately released a few days later.” In 2002, a suspected militant killed another employee, he added.
Tinsukia superintendent of police P.P. Singh, however, ruled out the involvement of militants in the kidnapping and said local coal mafias were involved in the incident.
“We have already identified three persons involved in the crime. They are presently absconding,” he said.