Nearly 200 employees and 10 officials of an industrial unit in Adityapur were held hostage for 12 to 30 hours since Tuesday morning by kin of a young contract worker, who died of fatal injuries received on duty last Thursday, in demand for adequate compensation for his bereaved family.
While the employees were allowed to leave the premises of Vijayshree Autocom Limited in Phase V of Adityapur industrial area around Tuesday midnight, the officials were released on Wednesday afternoon only after they coughed up Rs 5 lakh as damages.
Welder Kanto Mardi (35), a native of Bengal’s Bankura district and father two sons, fell from a 15-feet-high platform on the factory premises on July 10. He succumbed to grievous head injuries at Tata Main Hospital the same day following which the company management gave his widow Amuli Mardi a cheque of Rs 2 lakh and written job assurance.
After post-mortem at MGM Medical College in Dimna on July 11, Kanto’s body was sent to Bankura for his last rites, but relatives weren’t happy with the compensation package offered.
On Tuesday morning, 50-odd protesters — owing allegiance to the Republican Party of India — reached Jamshedpur from Bankura and sought audience with the company management on the issue. They contended that Amuli could not leave her minor sons at home in Bengal and work in Adityapur, and hence should receive more in terms of money.
When officials refused to negotiate, they locked the main gate of Vijayshree Autocom, demanding damages to the tune of Rs 18 lakh and in the process trapping inside 190 factory workers.
Gamharia police managed to release the employees, including 25 women, around midnight, but there was no reprieve for the officials. After concerted efforts by Seraikela ASP Naresh Kumar and the Association of Small Industries Association, the protesters agreed to free the 10 in lieu of another Rs 5 lakh as compensation to Amuli and her boys. The officials were, finally, released at 3pm. They had starved for 16 hours and spent the night drinking water, a source said.
Vijayshree Autocom is an ancillary unit of Tata Motors with over 150 permanent workers on its rolls. The brief lockout was a first in the company’s history. “We treat both permanent and contract workers equally. What happened was an accident. The protest was uncalled for,” said R.G. Sahee, manager (HRD and logistics).
Republican Party leader Hema Ghosh said their protest was necessary to ensure justice was done.
“Had we not locked the company gate, the young widow would have been deprived of a better compensation.”
ASP Naresh Kumar said a communication gap between police and company management had led to the crisis.