Fabricated vandalism

The second day of protests by thousands of garment factory workers against new Provident Fund rules turned violent.

Buses were set afire, glass panes of cars and buildings shattered, passersby and employees of nearby companies attacked mainly along Hosur Road and Tumakuru Road as the second day of protests by thousands of garment factory workers against new Provident Fund rules turned violent. Vandals took over the streets with what was clearly pre-planned arson and violence. The police seemed to have learnt no lessons from their failure to anticipate Monday’s protests. Instead, they resorted to overwhelming force to bring the situation under control. The Modi government put in abeyance the new PF rules, but not before Bengaluru burned.

Amid reports that the police failed to handle the protest by garment factory workers on Monday and Tuesday, City Police Commissioner N.S. Megharikh defended that the police handled the situation with patience as 80 per cent of the agitators were women.

Addressing the media on Tuesday evening, he said that 116 people were arrested in connection with the riots in two days. “We have got information that there were some forces that wanted to disturb law and order and they made use of the situation. In the riots that took place in Jalahalli, many anti-social elements joined the protesters and engaged in stone-throwing and arsoning. So far, 116 people, including three women, have been arrested on charges of rioting and damaging public property. The number of arrests will go up in the next few days,” he said.

garment workers' protest

“Monday’s incident was unexpected as close to one lakh agitators took part in the protest. We had to deal the situation carefully as 80 per cent of them were women. However, we had to lathi charge and lob 100 tear shells on Tuesday as the mob resorted to violence and the situation was going out of hand. An inspector opened one round of fire in the air to contain the situation at Jalahalli. More than 1.25 lakh people were part of the protests on Tuesday,” he said.
In all, 41 people were injured in the two days of riots and four of them were hurt on Monday.

“Among the police staff, 65 including 15 home guards have sustained injuries. Four police vehicles, including a Hoysala patrolling jeep that was set on fire, were damaged. Most of the 116 arrested were picked up from Peenya and Dasarahalli areas. Besides the entire city police force, 52 KSRP and 30 CAR platoons were deployed,” he said.

garment workers' protest

Bengaluru Rural SP Ramesh B also sustained a minor injury in the violence reported at Hebbagodi. Several other policemen were also injured in the

Policemen show power against helpless women
The sight of policemen caning women garment workers during the second day of their agitation in the city left several women activists angry and gave fodder to social media, which was abuzz with disgust at this high handedness of the men in khaki.

Said activist, Ruth Manorama, “This is absolutely atrocious. The police have no right to kick and hit these women , who are agitating to demand their basic human rights. The police should have deputed women officers to control the large number of women protesting on the roads. Instead the officers leading the lathicharge were men,” she protested.

garment workers' protest

Advocate Pramila Nesargi refused to buy the argument hat there are not enough women police officers in the city to handle this sort of a situation. She said the police’s lack of preparedness provided room for harassment and molestation. “This is exactly why women officers need to be present during protests. Male officers cannot touch women protestors,” she noted.

Netizens too criticised the police. “We understand that the Bengaluru police is under severe pressure to control angry workers. But I fail to understand how a male police officer could lathicharge a woman protestor. I saw on TV this officer beating the woman protestor repeatedly. The way people are being beaten is inhuman. Why is no one from the government coming forward to speak to people and reassure them?” demanded several.

What a thoughtless government policy wrought!
Garment workers, a large number of whom are women, are up in arms over the February 10 amendment of the Employees Provident Fund Scheme 1952 which allows them to withdraw their provident fund (PF) only when they retire or when they turn 58. District secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions, M. Lingaraju says the garment employees expectedly exploded in anger when they heard about the restriction on PF withdrawal and reacted by coming out on to the streets in protest.

garment workers' protest

“It is ridiculous to make the workers wait till they turn 58 years to withdraw their PF as the garment sector is highly unorganized and hardly anyone remains with these companies until retirement. Most employees are young women as the industry needs tailors and allied workers. They work in these garment factories to support their families and once married, quit their jobs or rarely continue working,” he says. “You will find no senior citizen working in the sector. So what is the point of having a PF account or saving up money if you cannot utilise it in times of need?” he demands, adding, “Let the government provide a labour-friendly environment in the garment sector and then impose such restrictions.”

Mr Lingaraju feels the amendment is especially uncalled for as a number of garment factories dodge paying gratuity to their employees by changing the ownership of their firms on paper or making fresh recruitments. “In these circumstances it is hard for these employees not to reach out for their PF, which is their only support in hard times,” he protests.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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