Protests over new PF withdrawal rules turn violent in Bengaluru

Bengaluru, April 19 (IANS) A massive strike on Tuesday by thousands of garment workers over restrictions on withdrawal of provident fund (PF) turned violent in Bengaluru, leading to burning of buses, as police caned and arrested many of them.

Outraged by the caning and forcible eviction of protesters at a demonstration on Monday, thousands of garment and other factory workers blocked two national highways (NH-4 and NH-7) passing through Bengaluru, causing massive traffic jams for over five hours.

“As some anti-social elements among protesters took advantage of the tense situation and set three state-run buses on fire, damaged our vehicles and hurled stones at our force, injuring many of them, we fired tear gas shells and caned them to disperse them from the highways to restore traffic,” a police official told IANS.

The protests, which began in the city’s southern side on Monday, spread on Tuesday to the northern side where a cluster of garment units are located, employing thousands of workers, 90 percent of them women.

A teenaged girl suffered bullet injuries when police fired warning shots at a violent mob which threw stones at policemen and attacked a police station.

According to Bengaluru Police Commissioner N.S. Megharikh, the city has around 12 lakh garment workers, mostly women in the 20-50 age group.

In February, the labour ministry had issued a notification restricting 100 percent withdrawal of provident fund by members unemployed for more than two months.

The earlier decision was then deferred till April 30 but as protests persisted, the government decided to postpone it yet again by another three months. Later it was announced that it was being withdrawn.

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