Alleging that their demand for regularising their services was not being addressed, 10 workers of Dhrangadhra Chemical Works Limited (DCW) attempted suicide by consuming poison in Dhrangadhra taluka of Surendranagar district on Thursday.
Police said that the 10, all of them Dalits and who were part of a group of around 40 labourers hired through outsourcing, consumed poison at around 2:30 pm in their protest camp outside the gate of the DCW in Dhrangadhra. “We had inputs that something like this might happen and just as our team was about to reach the camp, 10 labourers consumed poison. We took them to a hospital in Dhrangadhra and then shifted them to CU Shah Medical College in Surendranagar. They all are now reported to be out of danger,” R B Devdha, Deputy Superintendent of Police of Dhrangadhra division in Surendrangar told The Indian Express.
Devdha said that prima facie, the labourers consumed phenyl in a bid to end their lives. “They have been camping outside the gate of the company and staging dharna to press for their demand that their services be regularised. But so far, their strike had not drawn attention. Around 15 days ago, a few of them had tried to set themselves on fire by dousing themselves with kerosene. However, police had prevented them. But today, they did not inform anyone with an aim to spring a surprise to draw attention of the media others to their ongoing strike,” the DySP further said.
Dr Roopam Kumar Gupta, additional medical superintendent of CU Shah Medical College Hospital said the patients were later shifted to a government hospital in Surendranagar town later in the evening. “We received 10 patients with a history of having consumed poison from Dhrangadhra. Three of them were admitted while seven were given primary treatment as OPD patients. After we stabilised all of them, they sought discharge-against-medical-advice and were eventually shifted to Gandhi hospital,” Dr Gupta said, adding prima facie it seemed they had consumed some phenolic poison.
“But forensic tests would require to ascertain exactly what they have consumed. As of now, the official version is that they consumed some unknown poisonous substance,” he added.
CU Shah is a private medical college and Dr Gupta said that as such, some treatment was chargeable.
Pramod Chatur, the leader of the protesting workers, was among those who attempted suicide. Two others were identified as Bharat and Manish.
Naushad Solanki, Congress MLA from Dasada constituency in Surendrangar, alleged that district authorites remained inactive despite him having alerted them that such an incident might take place. “They have been protesting for the last 70 days but neither DCW nor labour union of the company has paid any heed. Their main demand is that since they have been working for years as contract labourers, they know the nature of job and therefore they should be given priority in recruitment of regular workers,” Solanki said.
While DCW could not be contacted immediately for a comment, I K Jadeja, president of Kuda Agarkamdar Mahamandal, the labour union of DCW said that since these labourers were contracted by labour contractors and not the chemical company, their demand were not just.
“They work for DCW through labour contractors and therefore, as per legal provision, cannot demand benefits of regular service. In DCW, there is a tradition of giving priority to family members of workers in recruitment. Since these labourers are not employees of the company, they are not eligible to be considered on priority basis. Yet, with an aim to reach out to them, we pushed their case and of the 40 persons hired last year, three were contract labouers,” Jadeja, who is a senior BJP leader also, said.
He said that there are around 1,000 workers in DCW, the oldest soda ash manufacturing facility of Asia while another 300 to 400 are engaged through outsourcing. “The labourers who are protesting form a very tiny number of the total contact labourers,” said Jadeja.
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