About 100 contract labourers under Larsen and Toubro, construction contractor at Vedanta Resources' refinery at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district, went on rampage inside the plant on Tuesday.
The labourers allegedly demanded their dues from the L&T management and ransacked the factory's administrative building and switched off the power plant. They later clashed with the police, security guards and local villagers.
Kalahandi police chief Sudha Singh said 34 of the agitators were arrested on Wednesday. The rest reportedly fled the area after the incident.
On August 24, following protests by local tribal groups, the Union environment ministry stopped Vedanta, promoted by NRI entrepreneur Anil Agarwal, from developing bauxite mines in Niymagiri Hills.
The government also slapped a show-cause notice (see box) on Vedanta's Rs 4,500-crore one-million-tonne Lanjigarh refinery, about 450 km from here on Tuesday.
Vedanta Group said in a press release on Wednesday that about 200 workers talked with the L&T management. But it was inconclusive as the Labour Commissioner could not attend the meeting.
"Around 11.00 pm," the Vedanta release said, "suddenly we found a group of about 100 people forcibly entering the plant premises and ransacking the administrative offices."
The labourers, however, alleged that the authorities refused to pay their three months' due salary and intimidated them with the help of the police during the meeting.
"In the night (on Monday) itself, the company goons started it all when they attacked our fellow workers who were sleeping in their quarters," said a labourer.
When the news spread to the nearby villages, locals rushed to the site and helped rescue the plant and the staff. Vedanta also alleged that property worth Rs 1 crore was destroyed in the incident and lodged an FIR with the local police.
While chief operating officer of the refinery Mukesh Kumar said the number of labourers engaged by L&T was less than 1,500, government sources said on condition of anonymity that the construction firm had engaged more than 3,000 men through sub-contractors.