Bengaluru: Who triggered the violent protests by the garment factory workers that brought the city to a standstill for two consecutive days and caused huge amount of loss to public property, besides injuring 62 people including 24 policemen? While women led the protests, they were reportedly “used as shields” by the racketeers, who are yet to be identified, said an officer on condition of anonymity.
We were not behind mayhem: Union leaders
Neither the police know who led the violent protests nor did the factory garment workers union leaders know who was behind the mindless rioting in the IT hub. “Our workers did not indulge in any kind violence. They were protesting against the unlawful amendment to the Employee’s Provident Fund (EPF) Act by the Central government. Some anti-social elements targeted policemen and destroyed public property. We have told the police to withdraw the cases against our workers because they are innocent,” said president of the Garment & Textile Workers Union R. Pratibha.
Her colleague and garment workers’ leader Jayaram told Deccan Chronicle that he was shocked at the turn of events on Monday and Tuesday in the City. “We had planned a silent protest from April 20 against the central government’s decision to amend the PF withdrawal rules, but there are over six lakh garment factory workers in the city and they panicked because of the impending deadline of May 1 from when the new restrictions on PF withdrawal were to be implemented. Thousands of them came out much ahead of the planned protest. None of them, however, took part in any kind of vandalism,” said Mr Jayaram.
Centre has deferred PF amendment: PF Commissioner
The protestors dispersed only after EPF Commissioner Raja Rajesjwari Nagar came out and addressed them at the Hosur Road junction and informed them that the Centre has decided to defer its decision on implementing the new PF rules, which were to come into force by May 1, by three months. The government will discuss the proposed amendment to PF before deciding on it, he said.
Home Minister warns protesters
An angry Home Minister Dr G. Parameshwar warned the protesters, during a public address, not to take law into their hands on an issue in which the state government has no role. He said that the state government is empathetic to their cause and will petition the central government to not hurt the workers’ right to their money, but no one should take law into their hands and provoke the police to take action against them. “We are willing to talk to the leaders but there is no one to talk to. The police have become helpless,” he said.
Police exercised utmost restraint: DG & IGP
Director General and Inspector General of Police Omprakash pointed out that the strikers had no leaders. “In mob violence, the police normally broker peace by talking to the leaders. In this case there were no leaders. We do not know who triggered and fuelled the violence. We had to maintain utmost restraint even after policemen were targeted and public property was destroyed because we didn’t want to harm the protestors. Most of them were women,” said the police chief.
Centre robbing our money: Union leader
The panic has not settled and the anger is simmering in the over six lakh population of garment factory workers in Bengaluru against the central government’s decision to put restrictions on the withdrawal of the Employee’s Provident Fund. After a two-day mayhem by the violent protesters that brought the city to a halt, the garment factory workers on Tuesday afternoon distributed fliers written in Kannada assailing the Centre’s decision to amend the EPF.
“The central government is capitalist and is robbing the poor of their hard earned money. We will not allow them to amend the EPF rules and will protest again if they go ahead with any amendment,” the flier stated.
“We were getting Rs 272 every day as our daily wage till March 31. From April 1, we have got a daily increment of Rs 15.32. A small portion of our earnings goes to PF, which is our only saving. How will we survive if the government puts restrictions on our savings,” asked Madina of the Garment and Textile Workers’ Union.
Mr Jayaram K.R., also from the same union, said that all the unions in the state will get together and hold a silent protest in the city on April 22 against the PF amendment. “On Wednesday we are holding a protest in Mandya. Our aim is not to disrupt traffic and public life,” he said.