A day after a group of striking employees of the MSRTC staged a fierce protest outside NCP supremo Sharad Pawar's residence, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar on Saturday said the police department failed to get timely information about the agitation.
He also said that the police were trying to find out who provoked the transport corporation workers.
Over 100 workers of the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) had staged the protest outside 'Silver Oak', Pawar's bungalow on Pedder Road in south Mumbai on Friday afternoon, catching the police unawares. Hours later, the police arrested 103 persons, including advocate Gunaratna Sadavarte, who claims to represent the striking employees of the transport corporation.
Employees of the state transport body, which has over 90,000 persons on its payrolls, have been on strike since November 2021. The main demand of the striking workers is that the cash-strapped transport corporation be merged with the state government. The protest came a day after the Bombay High Court asked the workers to resume duty by April 22.
Talking to reporters here this morning, Ajit Pawar said, "Two days back, there was a celebration (after the court order) and even those who were following the issues portrayed the court's decision as a victory. There was no reason to go to 'Silver Oak'...Earlier, someone had also said that they will go to Baramati (Pawar's hometown) on April 12." "It is true that the police department failed to get information about the attack. When the agitators went to the place, there were mediapersons with cameras. It means that media was informed about it. So if media could get to know about it, why not the police department?...As per the information I have received, a senior police official has been appointed to carry out an inquiry into the episode." Home Minister Dilip Walse-Patil, who belongs to the NCP, had said on Friday there will be a probe into the "unknown forces" behind the attack as well as the "intelligence failure".
Pawar said he was in Beed district for a visit when he got information about the protest.
"The police machinery will find out who provoked the ST employees. Walse-Patil also held a meeting with officials to discuss the issue," he said.
"The court's decision is important...We tried to bring the salaries of MSRTC employees on par with the Seventh Pay Commission recommendations. Also, the state government has assured them to intervene if their salaries are not credited by the tenth day every month," he said.
When asked whether he suspects the involvement of any political party in the protest, Pawar said he would not make any statement untill he receives the police's inquiry report.
The state finance minister also dismissed the allegation that the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government was neglecting the MSRTC employees.
"It is a false allegation that the MVA neglected ST employees' strike. Initially, Sharad Pawar held a meeting with them. Transport minister Anil Parab and others were also present at that time. Various associations of employees also held talks with us and were satisfied with the government's decision. However, later some people became part of the agitation and tried to make provocative statements."