Mob attack halts work on bridge over Dibang

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 21.07.13
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Jorhat, July 20: Work on a highway and bridge project over the Dibang river in Arunachal Pradesh’s Lower Dibang Valley district has been suspended indefinitely after a mob beat up officials and ransacked the office of the company handling the task last night.

Local leaders of the Adi Students Union allegedly led the mob.

Navayuga Engineer Company Limited, the Hyderabad-based company that was working on the project at Meka Basti, has not only suspended work but has also threatened to go permanently off the project if authorities fail to provide security to its employees. The company, also involved in the construction of the Sadiya-Dhola bridge in Tinsukia district of Assam had started work on the Dibang project in March last year.

The Rs 750 crore project, comprising a network of bridges and highways, is the biggest such venture in Arun-achal Pradesh in recent times. Once complete, it will connect Bomjur and Meka sections of NH52, apart from helping security forces combat anti-national activities and to guard the international border with China. The project is scheduled for completion in 2015.

P. Srinivas Rao, senior manager (projects) of the company, told The Telegraph over phone that a group of about 30 youths, led by Nun Pertin, the president of the Dibang unit of Adi Students’ Union, came to the company’s site office last night and demanded salary hikes for local employees and allotment of work to local contractors.

“The boys came armed with local machetes (daos) and other weapons, which they used to damage the tables and chairs of the office. They even ransacked the office of the company’s public relations officer — former army captain Uday Bhaskar Sharma. He was beaten up and his uniform torn off. The mob also beat up another officer before leaving,” Rao said.

Rao said this was not the first time that the company had faced harassment from local student unions and others since it started work on the project. “There are endless problems involving Adi Stude-nts’ Union, Mishmi Students’ Union, local contractors and even politicians. There are instances of our employees bei-ng kidnapped. Blackmail and threat calls have become a regular affair,” the official said.

He said though there had been repeated complaints to the district administration as well as the state government, no action had been taken in this regard. “We simply cannot continue work on the project unless our employees are provided security,” Rao said.

The company has been demanding deployment of an Indian Reserve Police battalion at the project site since long to make the workers feel secure. The state government, however, has been unresponsive, he said.

Sources said the local unit of the Adi Students’ Union had demanded Rs 25 lakh from the company a few months back as donation for construction of their office building and on being declined, they had been trying to create problems for the company.

Pertin, however, said members of the union were not involved in any kind of incident at the company’s office last night. “We had just gone there to deliver a memorandum demanding a hike in pay for the local staff,” he said, alleging that the company paid its employees “handsome” salaries but gave meagre amounts to the local workers.