IT WAS another day of protests when Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi went to address a rally in Doda area of Gidderbaha constituency of Muktsar district of Punjab. Ahead of his visit to the rally venue, members of Teacher Eligibility Test (TET) Pass Unemployed BEd Teachers Association had gathered to go inside the pandal to raise slogans while mazdoor unions, contractual employees’ unions not only protested near the venue but also inside the Dana Mandi where the rally had been organised.
A few protesters even jumped over the rooftop of a room inside Dana Mandi so as to raise slogans against the Congress government while the public rally was going on. Unemployed teachers were rounded up and taken away. They were released after the function. Members of Punjab Mazdoor Sanjha Morcha, however, had gathered near the bus stand from where they were marching ahead towards Dana Mandi and entered into a scuffle with cops.
Transport Minister and Gidderbaha MLA Amarinder Singh Raja Warring stopped near Dana Mandi to talk to the mazdoor union protesters. “I have heard you all raising slogans against the government. I did not utter a word, it is your right to protest. However, if you want to meet the CM, a delegation of five-seven persons can come along with me in my car. I will arrange your meeting with the CM. We will tell you straightaway which demands can be met now and which are not possible as of now,” Warring said.
The Transport Minister also addressed the cops and said, “They (mazdoor unions) have the right to protest. It is their democratic right. So no one will use any force against them. However, if anyone takes law and order in hand, due action should be taken.”
Warring said that he had gone for a water works project inauguration at a village two days ago where around 10-12 protesters from mazdoor union were raising slogans. He said. “I stopped to listen to them but except for raising slogans, they did not talk so I had no choice but to move ahead. If you are protesting, you need to tell the reason for your protest and meet the officials concerned as no one is denying to meet you. However, if you just have to protest for a few hours and go back, it is
The Transport Minister told the mazdoor union protesters a number of times that five-six of them could come either in his vehicle or in the DSP’s vehicle for a meeting, but no one came forward. Warring left the venue after talking to the protesters for a few minutes and sloganeering continued later.
While speeches of Raja Warring, Zira MLA Kulbir Singh Zira, Faridkot MP Mohd Sadiq, Raja Warring’s wife Amrita Warring and CM Channi were going on inside the shed area of Dana Mandi, the protesters from mazdoor unions, contractual employees and various other unions kept on raising slogans against the Congress government outside the shed area of the rally. Few protesters had even jumped over the rooftop of a room of Dana Mandi at the entrsance to raise slogans.
Gurpal Singh Nangal, from Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union, said, “We scuffled with cops at two points — one near bus stand and another near the venue. Our sanjha morcha had given a call to protest against all the Congress MLAs/ministers whenever they come for public functions. Hence, we are doing the same.”
Tarsem Singh Khundehalal, another leader, said, “What is the point of our meeting when the CM backed out of his promises made on November 23 when he had met with our sanjha morcha? Hence, our protests will continue everywhere.”
Mazdoor unions are demanding waiver of loans taken from microfinance companies, allotment of five-marla plots, restoration of snapped power connections, and waiver of pending electricity bills. They also stated that farm labourers have got nothing due to pink bollworm damage in the cotton belt while the government had stated that 10 per cent of the total allotted amount will be given to the farm labourers.
PRTC buses used During the rally, PRTC buses were used along with private buses to ferry people. Area MLA Amarinder Raja Warring is Transport Minister. Hence, a question mark was raised over the misuse of official machinery for bringing people up to the rally venue and later dropping them back to their villages.