Policemen maintain vigil in front of the Siyaljori plant in Bokaro on Thursday. (Pankaj Singh)
Bokaro, Sept. 26: The economic blockade against Electrosteel Castings Limited by hundreds of land-losers took an ugly turn in the past 24 hours after 1,200 employees were held hostage at the Siyaljori plant and five officials, including two engineers, thrashed.
This morning around 5am, protesters roundly beat up two officials who tried to enter the plant. Yesterday, the crowd waiting outside beat up two engineers who tried to enter the steel plant and an official who tried to sneak out.
The beatings occurred despite the presence of Siyaljori police station near the plant as well as some 20 jawans “monitoring” the protest.
“Police are trying to maintain law and order outside the gate. If one has been physically assaulted outside the campus, we are not aware of it. We will look into the matter. We want Electrosteel management and villagers to come to a peaceful settlement,” Bokaro DSP R.R. Prasad said.
The police it seems are no match for hundreds of angry villagers, who claim to have sold their land to the steel plant far below government rates only to be short-changed on jobs and salaries. They have gheraoed the company’s Siyaljori plant and Parbatpur coal extraction unit, both in Chandankyari.
All routes leading to the steel plant and coal unit are blocked and sloganeering against the company is on.
The indefinite economic blockade to extract “jobs for all those displaced” and “salaries on a par with Coal India Limited and SAIL”, is aiming to paralyse the steel plant at Siyaljori.
So far, production inside the plant hasn’t been hit. But, many doubt how long it will continue. Agitators are not allowing food, medicines, fuel and other essentials to enter plant premises.
“It’s not an economic blockade but an inhuman act. Some 1,200 employees are held prisoners inside the plant. They are running short of food and medicines,” said chief of communications Rohit Singh.
He added the management had consulted the district administration on sorting out the issue fast.
Bokaro DC Uma Shankar Singh directed officials, including Chas SDO Sanjay Singh, DSP B. Kullu and R.R.Prasad to mediate a possible settlement.
A. K. Singh, an engineer who called up The Telegraph from inside the plant, said: “After the incidents of beatings, I am too scared to venture out. I am worried as my wife and toddler are alone in Bokaro city.”
On the other hand, the protesters are claiming high moral ground. At noon, former Dhanbad MP, veteran trade union and MCC leader A.K. Rai reached the steel plant gates to support agitating villagers.
“Electrosteel management should accept the genuine demands of poor farmers who have given ancestral land for the steel plant and coal extraction unit,” he said.