In a massive show of strength ahead of their indefinite strike from February 7, government employees and teachers from across Andhra Pradesh gathered in Vijayawada on Thursday, defying police ban and restrictions to press their demand for a higher pay revision.
It was one of the biggest gatherings seen in recent years as employees, teachers and pensioners came together for ‘Chalo Vijayawada’ called by ‘PRC Sadhana Samiti’, the joint action committee of all unions of employees and pensioners.
BRTS road in the city reverberated with slogans of awe want justice’. Holding flags of their respective unions and banners, the protestors took out a massive rally from AP NGO Bhavan to BRTS Road.
The protest was a roaring success as organisers claimed that one lakh people participated in it while three lakh more were stopped by the police in various parts of the state.
The police, which had denied permission for the protest in view of Covid-19 situation and set up checkposts, could do nothing to stop a wave of protestors flooding the key artery in the city. Defying all restrictions, employees, teachers, pensioners and even contract employees reached the venue.
Despite the checkposts, barricades and other measures taken by the police, protestors poured in from all directions. Many reached by cars, three-wheelers and even by two-wheelers to join what is described as the biggest demonstration by government employees in many years.
The protestors marched through the BRTS road. Some adopted novel methods to lodge their protest by singing or by even begging.
They demanded that the government take back the Government Order (GO) issued last month, fixing new pay scales as per 23 per cent pay revision. They argue that since they were receiving 27 per cent interim relief the GO has led to downward revision in their salaries.
The employees are demanding that the government make public Pay Revision Commission (PRC) report.
“Our demands are just. We are demanding the government to give us our rights,” said an employee participating in the rally.
The employees criticised the ‘adamant’ attitude of the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) government. “We don’t want your reverse PRC. Pay us salaries as per the old pay scales,” said another employee.
Addressing the mammoth gathering, the leaders of PRC Sadhana Samiti made it clear that their protest will continue till the government accepts their demands.
“The government stopped buses and trains but it could not stop employees,” said one of the leaders Bandi Srinivasa Rao.
The leaders said the employees would go ahead with the strike from February 7. They said the entire administration will come to a standstill and the government would be responsible for the inconvenience caused to the people.
They demanded Chief Minister Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy to intervene and call them for talks to resolve the issue. “We are protesting in a peaceful manner. Still everything’s not lost. We request the chief minister to intervene and accept our just demands,” he said.
Despite police denying permission for the protest and the curbs imposed across the state, large number of employees, teachers and pensioners managed to reach here on a call given by called Raising slogans of ‘we want justice’ and The rally brought traffic to a halt in the busy areas.
Police had denied permission for ‘Chalo Vijayawada’ and detained several leaders across the state.
Citing the denial of permission for the protest program in view of Covid-19 pandemic situation, the police detained leaders of various unions of government employees and teachers in various districts.
The leaders were either placed under house arrest or summoned to police stations to serve notices, directing them not to leave for Vijayawada for the protest. They were being told that if they go ahead with the protest, action will be taken against them as per law.
Vijayawada Police Commissioner Kanti Rana Tata had said that there was no permission for ‘Chalo Vijayawada’. He said as per the guidelines issued by the central and state governments, any program with a gathering of more than 200 should not be allowed. The commissioner said since over 5,000 employees are likely to participate in ‘Chalo Vijayawada’ permission was not given for the same.
Meanwhile, home minister M. Sucharita denied that employees were arrested or stopped. She said the issue can be solved only through talks.