Rivalry for control over workers' union caused 'sudden' protests

Rivalry for control over workers' union caused 'sudden' protests

Rivalry for control over workers' union caused 'sudden' protests
Garment workers’ protest against new provident fund withdrawal rules took everyone by surprise. But was it as spontaneous as it appeared? It has now emerged that rivalry between two persons for control over the workers’ union in the unorganised sector triggered the protest.

The ugly conflict between R M N Ramesh and Sabastian Devaraj, who are reportedly associated with the Congress and the JD(S) respectively, is said to have led to the protest that turned violent and crippled life in parts of Bengaluru on Monday and Tuesday.

A police officer, who was working in the state intelligence wing until recently, said the two leaders nurtured political ambition and had blessings of big-time politicians. The two men often led the protests of unorganised sector workers and their supporters clashed in the past. “Their focus area is the garment industry which employs a large number of women who can be easily influenced,” the officer said on the condition of anonymity and added that he would soon submit a “comprehensive” report on the matter to government.

When contacted, Ramesh blamed Devaraj for stoking violence and claimed he had tried to pacify the protesters. “Leaders like Devaraj misled factory managements over the last few months. We tried convincing the workers but they won’t listen,” he told Deccan Herald.

The officer confirmed that Devaraj was on a campaign against the new provident fund structure. He “misled” HR heads of some firms and convinced the workers to go on a large-scale flash strike in Bengaluru city, Bengaluru rural and Ramanagaram. “The local police had no clue about his activities,” the officer said.

A senior officer of the Bengaluru police described the protest and violence as “sponsored and well-planned”. “Thousands of innocent women workers were manipulated to further someone’s petty rivalry. We will mention these facts in our report to the Home Department,” he said.

The officer conceded that the police apparatus woke up only after the damaged had been done but insisted that it was “fully prepared” now. “Our junior staff are injured. We will clamp down on those who indulge in such incidents,” he said.

Additional Commissioner of Police (East) P Harishekaran told Deccan Herald that the violence had been taken “very seriously”. “We will not spare anyone who dares to spread violence. We have already detained 30 people,” he said.

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