The Punjab Director General of School Education, Pradeep Kumar Agrawal, allegedly entered into an argument with striking drivers, attached to the state’s top bureaucrats, on Thursday and allegedly pushed a driver and threatened to lodge a police complaint against them.
The incident occurred when the protesters, on a two-day strike over a host of demands, confronted the driver of Agrawal’s car. The agitating drivers, attached with bureaucrats at the main secretariat, mini secretariat and with ministers, are demanding a pay revision, seeking conveyance allowance and insurance cover for the official vehicles they drive.
One of the drivers, Jaswant Singh, said they had told the driver of Agrawal’s official car that he would not be allowed to continue as a strike was on.
“I was pushed by the officer (Agrawal) as he got down from the car after we told his driver that we will not let him drive the car. The officer got down and said ‘how dare you touch the car’?. We told him about the strike. He then pushed me and threatened to lodge a police complaint. I told him that he was free to lodge the police complaint. As the argument continued, his driver spotted the media and told him about it. After learning about this, the officer started saying that he was with us,” Jaswant Singh said.
“Agrawal later went inside the mini-secretariat building and left in a taxi,” he added.
Agrawal though denied the allegations.
“Nothing of that sort happened. I had gone to the secretariat in my car but they snatched the keys from my driver. I am now moving in a taxi,” Agrawal said.
The strike had majority of the state’s bureaucrats either hiring taxis or driving on their own to reach offices.
The protesting drivers also stopped the car of Pungrain Director (Finance) M S Sarang at the road opposite to the mini-secretariat. As Sarang got down from the car, the protesters told him about the strike and took away the car key from the driver, who according to them was a contractual employee.
With car locked by his side, Sarang was seen making a call from his mobile number but he later walked to his residence through the park opposite the mini-secretariat.
Punjab chief secretary Sarvesh Kaushal was driven to his office by a policeman while additional chief secretary (Agriculture) Suresh Kumar came in a taxi.
Principal secretary (civil aviation) Viswajit Khanna drove his official vehicle to work while a few other officials reached their offices in their private vehicles.
The strike was observed under the aegis of Punjab Government Drivers and Technical Services Employees Union. Balbir Singh Bhangu, the president of the union, said their demands included revision of grade pay.
“We also want conveyance allowance as we have long duty hours. At times we have to leave as early as 4 am and return late in the night. The officials vehicles do not have insurance cover and when their involved in accidents, the onus to pay the damages lies with the driver. We want insurance cover for the official vehicles. We have another demand relating to special allowance of Rs 1,400 which we want separately and not merged with basic pay,” Bhangu said.
The protesting drivers are scheduled to meet Chief Secretary Sarvesh Kaushal at 11 am on Friday.