Hundreds of Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) workers on Friday held massive protests outside NCP Chief Sharad Pawar’s residence in Mumbai and accused him of not listening to their plight. Police have registered cases against 105 people under different sections of the IPC and arrested them. Several MSRTC workers have been on strike since November last year demanding that they be treated on par with the state government employees and that the cash-strapped transport corporation be merged with the government.
After the protests outside Pawar’s Silver Oak residence, a meeting between MSRTC workers and NCP leaders was held, according to CNN-News18 reports.
Pawar’s daughter and Lok Sabha MP Supriya Sule tried to placate the protesters outside the house, saying she was ready to talk to them but she must ensure first that her parents who were inside were safe. Police later rounded up many of the protesters and took them away, while the additional force was deployed outside the house.
Some protesters were also seen hurling footwear toward the house. “Some 120 employees of MSRTC have died by suicide since the strike began. These are not suicides but murders, caused by the state’s policy… Sharad Pawar has not done anything to resolve the issue,” a protester told reporters.
“We respect yesterday’s decision of the Bombay High Court, but we were discussing the issues with the state government which has been elected by the people. This government did nothing for us. The Chanakya of this government, Sharad Pawar, is also responsible for our losses,” said another protesting worker.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has condemned the attack on Pawar’s residence and instructed the police officials to take stern action against those responsible.
ज्येष्ठ नेते, खासदार शरद पवार यांच्या घरावर झालेल्या हल्ल्याची घटना अत्यंत निंदनीय असून या प्रकारास जबाबदार असणाऱ्यांवर तसेच हल्लेखोरांवर कडक कारवाई करण्याच्या सूचना मुख्यमंत्री उद्धव बाळासाहेब ठाकरे यांनी पोलिस अधिकाऱ्यांना दिल्या आहेत.
— CMO Maharashtra (@CMOMaharashtra) April 8, 2022
State Home Minister and NCP leader Dilip Walse-Patil said the workers should not have taken law into their own hands. “The undesirable turn which the protest has taken is not good. The agitation outside NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s residence in Mumbai was unnecessary,” he tweeted in Marathi. “It was well known who was inciting the agitators,” he said without naming anyone, while also stated that the state government was open to hold dialogue with the agitators.
“I have given instructions to Mumbai CP Sanjay Pandey and joint commissioner, law and order, Vishwas Nangre Patil to take strict action against those responsible. Someone mislead MSRTC workers, protest is backed by someone else,” he told ANI.
#UPDATE | Maharashtra: Police registered cases against 105 people under different sections of IPC in connection with the protest outside NCP leader Sharad Pawar's residence.
Police arrested all 105 accused.
— ANI (@ANI) April 8, 2022
BJP leader Pravin Darekar said the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government in the state was “flint-hearted.” “Over 100 MSRTC employees have lost their lives, but the state government was never serious about breaking the deadlock. Ministers Anil Parab and Ajit Pawar warned of disciplinary action against employees several times. It was this arrogance that the employees have not forgotten,” he said.
The protests came a day after the Bombay High Court directed the striking workers of the MSRTC to resume duty by April 22, and also asked the corporation to not take any action against these employees.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice M S Karnik had on Wednesday said it would give the workers time till April 15 to resume duty. But on Thursday it extended the time for another week. “We are extending the date till April 22. The workers should not repeat the offences in future. The court is also striving to arrive at a situation where there are no further deaths either by suicide or natural causes just because someone has lost their livelihood. We don’t want that. We want all the employees to return to work, the court said. By the extended date, those workers who resume duty remain protected, but those who don’t, do so at their own risk and peril,” the court said.
Maharashtra Transport Minister Anil Parab also assured that no action will be taken against the striking employees. The minister further said that the corporation has assured the court that it will roll back all the actions it had taken against workers during the strike. Hence, no action will be taken against those who rejoin duty by April 22, but the procedure will continue for workers against whom police action was taken, he reiterated.
The corporation had been giving pension and gratuity to MSRTC employees. If it has been irregular, it will try to pay the same on time, he said.
(With inputs from PTI)