A day after the violence and arson at Talcher coalfield over retrenchment of contractual workers, local MLA Braja Kishore Pradhan was arrested by Talcher police in Bhubaneswar on Saturday evening.
According to the IIC of colliery police station BP Patra, Pradhan was brought to Talcher and produced in the court of Sub-divisional Judicial Magistrate. Rejecting his bail plea, the court remanded him to 14-day judical custody. Police have prima facie evidence about Pradhan’s involvement in Friday’s violence, Angul SP Narsinha Bhol said, adding that investigation was on.
Meanwhile, situation continues to be grim in Talcher coal belt. While mining remained paralysed, power generation was halted in three NTPC units despite resumption of work in three collieries.
With an impending threat of complete shutdown of power supply due to non-availability of coal, the Angul administration on Saturday managed to run only three of eight coal mines.
Only departmental workers joined their duties on Saturday in Lingaraj, Kaniha and Bhubaneswari mines, while the contractual workers stayed away affecting coal production as they are the ones who are primarily involved in coal production. They are on cease work since Thursday.
These workers, who were working in railway sidings for several years, were retrenched by the new contractors evoking protests from them in the past several days.
The dispute started when the workers demanded to continue the job and the contractors refused to take them.
When the new contractor along with his labourers arrived at the railway sidings to start the work on Friday, the retrenched workers opposed them leading to a clash.
The protesting workers torched 10 motorcycles and nine other vehicles on the spot. Around 150 casual workers were engaged in loading of coal to wagons in these two sidings.
The Talcher coalfield crisis has also hit the functioning of 3,000 MW NTPC power plant at Kaniha as it was forced to shut down three of its six 500 MW units in the plant for it has no additional coal stock.
“We have shut down three units and the remaining three are producing only 100 MW out of total capacity of 3000 MW. On Saturday, we got rakes of coal from Kaniha and Lingaraj mines and are hopeful of getting more following which production at the three closed units will be resumed,” said an NTPC official.
In the last three days of cease work, MCL has lost more than three lakh tonne of coal which amounts to Rs 21 crore. “Also, there has been no coal dispatch to any power station of the country except NTPC,” said MCL Director (Technical) JP Singh.
Under fire for being unable to control the clash, Angul police on Saturday claimed that they had no idea about the contractor beginning the work on Friday.
Angul SP Narasingh Bhol said the contractor was advised not to begin work on Friday owing to the tense situation.
“He, however, went ahead,” the SP said. Besides, the police was not informed by the contractor about beginning the work and hence, it was not possible for the cops to provide immediate police deployment in the area.
MCL Chairman-cum-Managing Director AN Sahay regretted that Talcher coalfield, a key supplier of coal to several states including Odisha, has been subjected to closure by people with vested interests.