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Bloody clash at IIT Mandi: State govt, admn's apathy led to incident, says CITU

The clash at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kamand, on Saturday that left four dead and nine injured is being seen as the fallout of the district administration and state government's apathy towards labour rights.

punjab Updated: Jun 21, 2015 21:01 IST
Roop Upadhyay
Roop Upadhyay
Hindustan Times
Mandi,Indian Institute of Technology,Kamand

The clash at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kamand, on Saturday that left four dead and nine injured is being seen as the fallout of the district administration and state government's apathy towards labour rights.

Over 500 labourers, half of which are women, who have been working with private construction companies for the past over four years at the north campus site of IIT, Kamand, at Salagi village, have repeatedly registered complaints and held protests against their abject working conditions over the past year.

Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) district president Bhupender Singh said had the government paid heed to their grievances, Saturday's clash could have been avoided.

"Repeated subletting of construction work, lack of vigilance and monitoring by IIT Kamand authorities and central public works department, and indifferent attitude of the district administration and state government towards gross violation of labour laws caused unrest among the labourers that ended in the deadly consequence," Singh said.

Among the labourers' various grievances are delayed salaries, temporary tin or plastic shelters, lack of proper toilets and poor drinking water and electricity supply. As a result, labourers are forced to relieve themselves in the open.

Leaders of various labour organisations in the past have repeatedly alleged that the private construction company hired by the CPWD was violating labour laws and exploiting poor labourers. "But neither the IIT authorities nor the district administration or the state government set up a single inquiry panel to probe the labourers' allegations," Singh said.

Several media reports have also repeatedly raised the issues.

The clash between private security guards of a Shimla-based contractor and protesting labourers had left four persons dead and nine others injured on Saturday.

Didn't know about guards, illegal weapons: DC

A day after the clash, Mandi deputy commissioner Sandeep Kadam denied having information about hiring of security guards hailing from Punjab by the civil contractor and presence of illegal weapons at Salagi village.

On the other hand, CITU leaders claimed that they had informed the DC about the security guards and their weapons after an agitation outside his office on Friday.

Meanwhile, Kadam also claimed to have started work to resolve the labourers' issues after their Friday's protest. The DC said he had spoken to the registrar of IIT Kamand and directed the labour inspector and sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) to meet the registrar on Saturday. The labour inspector and SDM were on their way to IIT Kamand on Saturday when the incident occurred, he added.

CITU leaders, however, said the issues could not be resolved by just making phone calls. They claimed that the DC had in the past, too, assured to resolve their issues, but in vain. They added that if their issues would have been solved, they would have called off their strike at Mandi on Friday and the clash would have been averted.

Civil contractor's arrest demanded

A number of leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Communist Party of India (CPI), CPI (Marxist), Swaraj Abhiyan and social volunteer organisations termed the incident a murder of democratic rights of labourers, and demanded arrest of the civil contractor who hired the security guards from Punjab. They also demanded a high-level inquiry into the smuggling of illegal weapons to the peaceful area and use of muscle and ammunition against poor villagers.

Statewide joint protest today

CITU district president Bhupender Singh on Sunday said a joint protest by CITU, CPI, CPI (M), Bharatiya Majdoor Sangh (BMS), Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) and representatives of a number of political fronts and labour unions would organise a massive dharna against the state government's apathy and protest at all district headquarters of the state on Monday.

First Published: Jun 21, 2015 20:59 IST