A whopping 25,000 applicants from across the state — mostly youths — turned up outside Harsul Central Jail in Aurangabad on Thursday to apply for the posts of just 122 prison constables.
The police, claim the applicants, lathi-charged them at about 8 am, resulting in a stampede in which seven people sustained injuries.
“People were desperate,” said Raju Bhaurao Sardar, who came from Amravati in Vidarbha district.
“Many people spent the night (Wednesday night) outside the jail and had to run for shelter following sudden showers. Besides, the huge crowd for interviews worried everybody,” added Sardar, who spent the night at the railway platform.
Policemen watch over the applicants gathered outside Harsul Central Jail in Aurangabad on Thursday. (HT photo)
Each time the police threw the gate open for a batch of 30 people, they would “run as if there was no tomorrow,” Sardar described.
Some, like Jaywant Thorat, an HSC-holder from Dhule, lost their original documents in the melee. They later pleaded with the authorities for a special reg istration so they could submit their duplicate documents later.
The police, however, denied that the applicants were lath icharged. Aurangabad Deputy Commissioner of Police KG Patil said the police did not resort to lathi-charge and candidates were injured in the stampede as they were unwilling to stand in a queue.
But Special Inspector-General of Police SK Verma, who was supervising the recruitment process, had a different explanation. He said the early morning rains lead to confusion as thousands who were unable to find shelter sought resort in a tiny place in front of the prison gate. He denied there were any lapses on his part.
Interestingly, within minutes of the lathi-charge the applicants assembled before the prison gates as if nothing had occurred.
This time however, they followed police instructions and had to squat on the road outside the prison. None was in a mood to take the slightest objection when the police, trying to keep order, poked their backs with lathis, slapped them or randomly hurled abuses at some.