Police round up PRTC staff in midnight swoop

PATIALA: In an act reminiscent of the fate of Baba Ramdev-led agitation, nearly 100 constables of Patiala police thrashed agitating contractual staff of Punjab Roadways Transport Corporation (PRTC) in a midnight swoop at Patiala bus stand on Friday night.

Though SSP Patiala has denied use of force, the agitators alleged that the beating went on for around 25-30 minutes, before nearly 100 of them were arrested.

Police claimed that the protesters were rounded up for unlawful assembly since Section 144 of the CrPC was imposed in the area. SSP Patiala said that 90 protesters were taken into preventive custody and sent to jail.

They have decided to intensify their agitation following the police action.

The contractual staff of PRTC has been on agitation at the local bus stand since June 14. After a one-day protest, the staff started an indefinite hunger strike from June 16.

Nearly 1,000 protesters have been demanding regularization of services, as all of them have completed one-year in PRTC department on contract. The management is yet to make any step to regularize their services.

“We were sitting peacefully when about 100 policemen attacked us with sticks around 12.15am on Friday. They went on thrashing us for around 30 minutes. We had not committed any offence and were only demanding our right. Now, we will intensify our agitation,” said Rupinder Singh, general secretary of the employees union.

Though the number of arrested protesters has not been confirmed so far, some employee leaders claimed that over 100 of them were arrested.

They also said that a majority of those arrested were drivers and conductors, who have been working on meagre salaries, and the number of arrested employees was above 100.

“Police have no right to beat up our members. We had not violated any law and were conducting peaceful agitation,” said Nirmal Singh Dhaliwal, general secretary of PRTC Employees Union.

Patiala SSP Gurprit Gill denied allegations of thrashing, but confirmed they have taken 90 protesters in custody.

“We have made preventive arrests of 90 persons. We have sent them to central jail, Patiala and are conducting further investigations,” said Gill.

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