Rank holders’ agitation turns violent

The two-week long stir by job aspirants in front of the Secretariat escalated on Tuesday with the agitators threatening to commit suicide for the second consecutive day.

The vicinity turned into a battleground with the opposition parties joining the struggle and clashing with the police.

A day after two last grade servants’ post rank holders attempted suicide, four job-seekers who figured in the Kerala Public Service Commission (PSC) rank list for civil police officers’ (CPO) posts threatened to commit suicide from a two-storeyed building opposite the Secretariat by around 5.30 p.m.

While they were soon taken into custody by the police and fire force officers and shifted to the Armed Reserve camp, 100-odd agitators laid siege to a lane of the MG Road demanding their immediate release. They also refused to budge from their positions until the government extended the validity of their rank list.

According to them, the CPO rank list had expired last year even while numerous vacancies remained unfilled in various police battalions.

The protesters alleged that the government had not reported several vacancies for reasons that were unknown to them. Besides, appointments from the rank lists had been suspended for several months at various points in time, including against the backdrop of the stabbing incident at University College as well as the COVID-19 crisis.

Soon, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers, led by district president V.V. Rajesh, marched to the Secretariat and pledged support to the agitators’ demands. It was not long after the Youth Congress’s rally to the Secretariat when the Chief Minister in effigy was burnt.

Their demonstration took a turn for the worse when the activists attempted to topple the barricades that were erected in front of the Secretariat gate. This prompted the police to use water cannons and lathi charge at the Youth Congress workers, resulting in some of them sustaining injuries.

Congress legislators V.S. Sivakumar and K.S. Sabarinadhan agitated in front of the Armed Reserve camp demanding the release of the four protesting rank holders.

Reacting to the rank holders’ agitation, Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac told media persons that the protesters were being incited by opposition parties and their feeder organisations. This was evident from statements made by leaders of the opposition parties. He also alleged that many rank-holder associations were launched with political interests.

While pointing out that it was impractical to employ each person who figured in PSC rank lists, Dr. Isaac said contractual workers had not been regularised in vacancies that were reported to the PSC.

(Suicide prevention helpline: DISHA: 1056, 0471-2552056)

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