Over 200 employees arrested, Rajbhawan march foiled

* Sagar says strike unjustified
Fayaz Bukhari/
Gopal Sharma

SRINAGAR/JAMMU, May 27: Police today charged batons and arrested over 200 State Government employees at Lal Chowk this afternoon to foil their Rajbhawan march while the employees toughened their stand and called for 4 days strike, the date for which will be announced after Joint Co-ordination Committee (JCC) meeting scheduled for tomorrow.
The Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Ali Mohammad Sagar,described the Government employee strike as unprovoked and unjustified. He said that employees should leave the path of confrontation and keep channels of communication open.
Around 2000 employees gathered at Srinagar’s city centre, Lal Chowk and started their march towards Rajbhawan on third day of the strike. The march culminated at Regal Chowk as police charged batons on employees and arrested over 200 of them.
The employees march to Rajbhawan started this afternoon from Lal Chowk but police deployed in full strength foiled the march by charging batons on them. Despite tough resistance from employees’ police managed to foil their march.
The employees were marching to Rajbhwana to present a memorandum to State’s Governor NN Vorha seeking his intervention for implementation of the agreement with State Government signed with them last year.
The Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Ali Mohammad Sagar, told Excelsior that employees strike has no justification and described it unprovoked. He said that Government has conceded to the demands of the employees last year only. They praised the Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, for resolving their issues and celebrated it last year.
The Minister said that there are some issues which are of sensitive nature. Regarding the enhancement of the retirement age, he said that there are lots of stakeholders of the issue. He said the issue of the unemployment is one of the biggest issues and Government does not want to take any risk.
Sagar said that Government is looking at the pros and cons of the issue and have formed a committee to look into the enhancement of retirement age demand. “Once the committee submits its report, it will be discussed in the cabinet”, he added.
Sagar said that the basic demand of the Government employees was Sixth Pay Commission, its arrears, DA and HR. He said that Government has regularized around 17,000 daily wagers and adhoc employees and the process is going on.
While praising JCC leaders Abdul Qayoom Wani and Khursheed Aalam, Sagar said that they should talk sense and show responsibility toward society. He said that at the time when there is an atmosphere of peace and thousands of tourists are arriving Kashmir daily, there is no logic and reason for the strike.
The Minister said that issue of the employees will be resolve and advised them to leave the path of confrontation and keep channels of communication open.
In the meantime the JCC leaders held a meeting this evening soon after their march was foiled by the Government. The meeting that was attended by the representatives of all the four factions of employees decided to observe 4 day strike.
Senior JCC leader and president of the Employees Joint Action Committee (R), Ram Kumar Sharma, said that JCC leaders are meeting again tomorrow and will decide about the dates of the next round of strike.
Kumar said that the decision of the 4 day strike was taken after State Government instead of fulfilling the demand of the employees’ resorted to repressive measures by arresting over 200 Government employees.
Kumar said that repressive tactics of the State Government aggravated the situation. He said that by these tactics Government forced employees to intensify their agitation.
Kumar, however, said that employees can call off strike now if the Government implements the agreement which it reached with the State Government employees last year.
The JCC leaders who participated in today’s meeting are Ram Kumar Sharma, Rafiq Khanyari, Madan Sangral, Bashir Ahmad Ganai, Haji Bashir, Nisar Ahmad, Ghulam Mohammad Dobi, Kulwant Singh, Ghulam Rasool Geelani, Mohammad Gafoor Dar and Mushtaq Ahmad Badana.
The president of the Employees Joint Action Committee (Q), Abdul Qayoom Wani, told Excelsior from the Police Station Kunzar that employees’ programme was a grand success and urged the employees to follow the JCC programme in future.
Wani asked the employees to resume their duties from Monday and future course of action will be chalked out on in the JCC meeting. He said that despite the use of force thousands of employees managed to reach Lal Chowk.
The senior JCC leader Mohammad Gafoor Dar said that around 700 employees were arrested today by police and described the programme as a grand success. Dar and Syed Gulam Rasool Geelani were leading their employees in the protests today at Lal Chowk. Dar said several leaders of his employee organization faction were arrested today. They included Rafiq Kar, Shabir Ahmad, Irshad Ahmad, Gul Mohammad Malik, Bashir Ahmad Wani, Mir Nazir Ahmad.
The senior leader of ITI employees Union, Mohammad Abbas, said here that the main demand of the employees is the regularization of the daily wagers, contractuals and adhoc employees, and removal of pay anomaly. He said that Government should not have signed the agreement with the employees last year when they were in no mood to implement it. He condemned the arrest of employees and use of force by the Government.
The State Government employees are demanding regularisation of daily wagers, contractuals and adhoc employees, and removal of pay anomaly and increase in the retirement age from present 58 years to 60 years.
Around 300 State Government employees, mostly their leaders, were arrested during past three days. Over a dozen of the JCC leaders were arrested by police during mid-night raids on Wednesday on their residences. And over 50 of them courted arrested yesterday at the main entrance of the Civil Secretariat, Srinagar.
The prominent among those who courted arrest yesterday are Syeda Ladakhi, Purshotam Sharma, Balwan Singh, Shabir Ahmad, Javed Ahmad Akhoon, Ghulam Mohammad Hamdard, Ghulam Mohammad Bandro, Naseer Ahmad Wani, Khurshid Ahmad Dewani, Abdul Rashid and Mir Waseem.
And those who were arrested in mid night raids a day before the 3 day strike that began on Thursday included Abdul Qayoom Wani, Mohammad Khurshid Aalam, Mohidin Muntazir, Khursheed Ahmad Bhat, Farooq Trali, Khalid Mehmood, Abdul Qayoom Beigh, Haji Bashir Ahmad Bhat, Abdul Qayoom Beigh.
In the meantime as the Employees continued to stay away from work for the third day today Government offices remained deserted.
All Government offices, including the Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution (CA&PD) ration depots and headquarter also remained closed.
The Government educational institutions also wore a deserted look as students and teaching staff stayed away. However, private schools across the State were functioning normally.
Normal work in many Government and Public Sector Undertakings (PSU) offices remained paralysed today with the strike of employees across Jammu region while the Joint Consultative Committee of the employees leadership will announce next course of action tomorrow.
Responding to the three-day strike call given by the JCC on May 24, 25 and 26, a large number of employees held strong protest demonstrations and dharnas in their respective offices in Jammu city and other district and tehsil headquarters. The general public had to suffer due to ongoing strike. The healthcare in many hospitals was also hit.
All the sections of State Government, Public Sector Undertakings, temporary and permanent employees observed nearly complete strike. The employees held demonstrations, staged dharnas at district and tehsil headquarters to lodge their protest against the Government. In majority of the offices in the region the work was affected due to strike but in some of the offices, the work continued though the attendance was found thin. The emergency units in hospitals and other essential services had been kept out of the purview of strike.
While addressing employees in various offices in Jammu city today EJAC/ JCC leaders strongly condemned the attitude of the Government. They said that due to non-serious approach of the Government, the employees have been forced to go on strike. The Government has failed to honour its commitment. Nothing has been done on ground to address the agreed demands during meeting with employees’ leaders on 19-2-2009, 14-5-2010 and recently on September 15, 2011. They said several representations were given to the Government from time to time but it seemed to be in no mood to respond to the employees’ demands.
JCC leaders further alleged that Government has done nothing to formulate the policy for regularization of casual, seasonal and daily rated workers. The committees constituted by the Government for enhancement of retirement of age from 58 to 60 years and for removal of anomalies in different cadre, have not done their job within the framework of stipulated time. The PSU workers are being deprived of the Sixth Pay Commission benefits, arrears, DA, linking it with profit and loss. They claimed that it is only due to mismanagement and negligence of politicians that some PSUs are running into huge losses.
A large number of employees held protest demonstration outside Divisional Commissioner’s office at Rail head Complex in support of their demands. Under the banner of JCC, these workers, mostly from PSUs earlier assembled near Panama Chowk and then moved towards Rail Head complex. Arun Moza, Nazir Ahmed, Rajinder Kumar Amrik Singh Sasan and others addressed the gathering and projected their demands.
In Leh also employees observed strike and held demonstrations. Similar reports were received from Kargil. In Poonch, Rajouri and Kathua, the employees protest rallies were also held. The employees from several departments assembled at PHE complex Poonch and held dharna and protest rally. In Rajouri town, protest demonstration/ dharna was held near DC office and some other offices today. In many tehsils like Hiranagar, Billawar, R S Pura, Nowshera similar reports of protest rallies were received.
Reports from Samba, Udhampur, Ramban, Kishtwar, Doda and Reasi districts said that protest demonstrations were held by employees and the normal works remained affected. The emergency units of the hospitals, operational staff of urban local bodies, PHE and PDD remained out of the purview of the strike.


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