Members of more than 30 regular and contract employee unions, under the banner of Punjab and UT Mulazam Sangharsh Committee (PUMSC) shelved their plans to carry out a protest march in the city on Tuesday, after chief minister Parkash Singh Badal invited them for negotiations.
The protesters were left pleasantly surprised at the tone and the tenor of the response from the government.
"I received repeated calls from offices to negotiate. However, we were adamant that we will meet only the chief minister. Finally, the government agreed," said
Sajan Singh, PUMSC convener.
"We will be meeting the chief secretary on February 13. The chief minister will meet us at the Punjab Bhawan on February 18. After this was confirmed, we dropped the idea of a protest march through the city."
On a query on whether they had been invited for talks so quickly in previous protests, he claimed that the government had responded with speed this time.
"Holding the rally in Bathinda has worked for us, and very quickly. However, when we decided to hold the protest in Bathinda, we were getting repeated news and photos of police beating protesters on the roads here," he claimed.
The state-level rally at the Grain Market, otherwise, received a good response. Regular and contract workers from across the state had travelled to the venue in buses. The arrangements by the organisers also fell short in certain aspects.
The protest had aroused interested as it came soon after an emotional and taxing last week, after the death of the 14-year-old Eknoor Kaur during protests by EGS teachers.
"We want the regularisation of around 1.25 lakh employees working in different government departments on contract basis. We will raise this matter strongly in the meeting with Punjab CM," said Sajan.
"We have also warned the government not to use undemocratic methods to curb the protest in Bathinda and other parts of the state. Every citizen has right to protest to raise his demand and this should be respected."