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800 workers held hostage

Bokaro, Feb. 11: An indefinite economic blockade by land losers has brought production to a complete halt at Bokaro’s Electrosteel Castings Limited (ECL) once again with over 800 employees being held hostage inside the Siyaljori plant since yesterday.

The protesters, led by Nirsa MLA Arup Chatterjee, were demanding more jobs and better salaries for those already working at the plant or the company’s Parbatpur coal block, both in Chandankyari, after tripartite talks held last month failed.

The Chas administration clamped Section 144 at Siyaljori site in the evening, but protesters continued to pour in.

A similar agitation was held in September last year.

The protesters, who claimed that only 524 of the 1,800 land losers had got permanent jobs, but with salaries lower than what SAIL or Coal India Limited offered, were squatting near the plant gates, not allowing food, medicines, fuel and other essentials inside.

The stalemate has put ECL in a spot, which is suffering huge losses. Company officials said that they were managing with available resources to feed the 800 staff members, who were not being able to go home.

But, supplies would run out soon. “How can we work under such conditions? ECL is suffering a loss of about Rs 10 crore each day since the economic blockade started. If there are hurdles in the initial stages of running the plant after pumping in Rs 12,000 crore, it will be very difficult to carry on operations,” director R.S. Singh said today.

Not one to be cornered, Singh threatened to lead a peaceful march along with all officials and employees on the plant premises if the economic blockade wasn’t lifted.

“If I am attacked, so be it. We believe in the rule of law and have provided jobs to 800 displaced. If we are allowed to run the plant peacefully for one year, we will be able to give direct appointments to 10,000 more people and indirect jobs to 70,000, while Jharkhand’s exchequer will swell by Rs 2,000 crore,” he added.

MLA Chatterjee, however, refused to budge till all their demands were met. “The ECL management had been given enough time to work on the demands, but nothing fruitful has come about. The protest will continue,” Chatterjee said.

In the evening, Chas SDO Sanjay Singh clamped Section 144 at the site to prevent assembly of people. “No one will be allowed to take the law in his hands. We are holding discussions with the protesters, including Nirsa MLA, and urging them to join talks. If they don’t, the law will take its own course,” he said.


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