Bengaluru: Some 15,000-20,000 garment factory workers took to the streets on Monday, with rowdy elements indulging in stone-throwing and arson, bringing the IT hub to a complete standstill.
The workers were under the mistaken impression that they would not be able to access their Provident Fund when they changed jobs, until they retired at the age of 58. The result was complete mayhem as protests broke out in three separate sites, beginning at Hulimavu, spreading to the Bommanahalli junction where around 6000 to 7000 garment workers gathered, and then, at the Employees Provident Fund Organisation in Singasandra, where the glass panes of the front office were broken by an angry mob. The protesters then rammed the message home by blocking traffic on the major arterial Hosur Road, throwing traffic coming from Mysore out of gear, with police unable to bring the situation in the heart of the IT hub under control for close to four hours.
The first protests, which broke out at around 1.45 pm quickly turned violent with protesters hurling boulders, stones, shoes, slippers and bottles on nearby buildings and all passersby and vehicles.
Panicked IT companies on Hosur Road and Electronic City, Phase 1 and Phase 2, quickly sent their employees home, adding to the chaos, as panic and fear gripped the IT fraternity. Employees who hadn't yet clocked in for the noon shift were instructed to stay home, causing as yet undetermined losses to the IT industry.
In scenes, unprecedented since the labour unrest of the seventies, protestors vandalized police vehicles, buses and trucks until police finally stepped in to disperse them. In the ensuing melee, around 10 to 15 garment workers, mostly women, sustained injuries and were treated for bleeding noses and head injuries at a nearby private hospital where several senior police officers were also brought for medical treatment.
Traffic was piled up for three to four hours on the entire stretch of the IT corridor starting from Madivala up until Attibele; vehicles were backed up from Jayadeva Circle until Silk Board junction on the Bannerghatta Road on the south side, and Ring Road, from HSR Layout until Silk Board junction on the east side, and from Bommanhalli main road junction up until Begur Main Road, police said.
“It was raining stones, shoes, slippers and water bottles on Hosur Road on Monday afternoon. Protesters had climbed nearby commercial buildings and were hurling stones and boulders into the crowd. We have videotaped the entire incident, and we know the workers who resorted to violence. We will deal with them sternly,” said an ACP-ranked police officer, who was posted at the spot until the evening until Hosur Road returned normal on Monday.
Around 7,000 garment factory workers, who had gathered at the Bommanahalli junction around 9.30 am, had neither informed the police nor obtained permission for their protest. They walked out of their factories, where they had arrived on Monday morning, and launched the flash protest, the officer said. Around 10.30 am, they staged a sit-in, blocking the entire Hosur Road. The traffic, which was already slow because of morning peak hours, came to a complete standstill.
“We asked a few local leaders and ex-corporators to pacify the workers, mostly women, who were made to sit on the road to block traffic by their respective heads,” the police said. “We requested them repeatedly to disperse as they had not obtained permission for the protests, but they did not budge,” said the senior officer.
The situation went out of control around 1.45 pm when the agitators resorted to violence, vandalising police and public vehicles. Three police jeeps and three KSRP buses were stoned. Windshields and windowpanes of three BMTC buses and a private bus and a few trucks were broken. The police resorted to lathicharge to disperse the crowd. Three KSRP platoons were deployed at the Bommanahalli junction, two platoons at Singasandra and one at Hulimavu, said an officer.
EPF office vandalised
The police resorted to lathicharge around 3.45 pm in front of the Employees Provident Fund office in Singasandra as the workers started throwing stones at the office for the third time endangering safety of PF employees who were literally under siege. “We took all our staff to the basement for safety as protesters started breaking glass panes and entered our work places,” said Ismail, a caretaker. Thousands of workers had gathered in front of the office.
They threw stones at the office first around 12.30 pm, then at around 1.30 pm and then again at 3.45 pm. Policemen were posted at the spot, but they were outnumbered. “I went to Bomanahalli junction to explain to the protesters that their PF money is safe, but we could not find a leader who could convince them,” said Mr Amardip Mishra, Regional PF Commissioner....