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Vidyut Bhavan sieged by thousands of contractual employees

The police said more than 3,000 people had gathered outside the building in the morning and the count swelled as the day progressed
More than 3,000 people had gathered outside Vidyut Bhavan in the morning and the count swelled as the day progressed.

Monalisa Chaudhuri And Snehal Sengupta   |   Salt Lake   |   Published 23.01.21, 02:33 AM

Vidyut Bhavan — the headquarters of the West Bengal State Electricity Transmission Company Ltd —  was under siege by thousands of contractual employees on Friday, prompting the police to intervene late at night as the protesters refused to budge even after 12 hours of blockade.

Around 100 permanent employees who had reported for work at Vidyut Bhavan, in Salt Lake’s DJ Block, could not return home before late on Friday. 

The employees, who had arrived around 10am, could not leave till the police removed the protesters around 9.45pm, a spokesperson for the utility said.

“Our employees had been trapped inside the building for hours and they could not get out,” said the spokesperson. 

The contractual employees were demanding a minimum wage of Rs 21,600 a month, a well-defined salary structure, an assurance that they would be retained till they turned 60, an opportunity to become permanent employees based on performance, and allowances, bonus and provident fund benefits.

The police said more than 3,000 people had gathered outside Vidyut Bhavan in the morning and the count swelled as the day progressed.

“We were keeping a close watch. It was a peaceful gathering. But things started taking an unwanted turn when the agitators blocked the gate of the building, leaving other employees trapped inside. Despite our repeated requests, when they did not agree to move, we had to push them back to rescue the trapped employees,” an officer of the Bidhannagar police said.

The 100-odd employees who were inside could leave for home after 10pm. 

A huge contingent of police cordoned the area and pushed back the agitators to make way for the people trapped inside for close to 12 hours. They were taken out of the building through the rear gate and escorted back home.

Around 60 people were arrested from the spot and taken to the police station.

A woman employee who was stuck said: “We are habituated to meetings and gatherings outside our office. But we were shocked to discover that we were not being allowed to step out. We were stranded for so many hours.”

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