Mumbai, April 9 (PTI): Mumbai Police on Saturday arrested seven more people in connection with the protest staged by a group of Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) workers outside NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s residence in the city the day before, taking the tally of those arrested in the case to 110, an official said.
A local court remanded advocate Gunaratna Sadavarte, who claims to represent the thousands of MSRTC employees who are on strike since November 2021, in police custody for two days, while others were remanded in judicial custody.
The state government also elevated the security cover provided to Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule from ‘X’ category to ‘Y plus escort’, a senior police official said.
Home minister Dilip Walse-Patil said the security cover of the Pawar family has been upgraded.
He met Sharad Pawar and chief minister Uddhav Thackeray during the day, he said. “The security lapses leading to yesterday’s incident will be probed,” the minister added.
Pawar’s nephew and Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar said the police failed to get timely information about the agitation, while BJP leader and former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis also asked how police remained unaware about protesters heading for the senior leader’s house.
Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari said that Sharad Pawar is a senior leader and such an incident should not have happened.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, meanwhile, condemned the ‘attack’ on the NCP chief’s house.
A group of striking MSRTC employees staged a sudden and fierce protest outside ‘Silver Oak’, Sharad Pawar’s bungalow on Pedder Road in south Mumbai, on Friday afternoon when he was at home, accusing him of not doing anything to help them. The protesters also included women.
“We have so far arrested 110 persons in connection with the attack,” said a senior police official on Saturday.
A case of rioting, unlawful assembly, assault and criminal conspiracy has been registered at Gamdevi police station.
Security was stepped up at Sharad Pawar’s house in south Mumbai as well as at his house in Baramati in Pune district, officials said.
MSRTC workers who had staged a sit-in at the Azad Maidan ground in south Mumbai for the last five months were also removed from the site in the morning, police said.
The employees of the MSRTC, which has over 90,000 persons on its payrolls, have been on strike for demands including the merger of the cash-strapped transport corporation with the state government.
Friday’s sudden protest came a day after the Bombay High Court had asked the workers to resume duty by April 22.
Speaking to reporters in Pune, Ajit Pawar said it was true that the police failed to get information about the attack.
“When the agitators went to Silver Oak, there were media persons with cameras with them. It means that media was informed about it…..then why not the police department?….As per my information, a senior police official has been appointed to carry out inquiry into the episode,” he said.
Incidentally, the home portfolio in the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress coalition government in Maharashtra is held by NCP leader Walse-Patil. The transport minister, under whose purview the MSRTC falls, is Anil Parab of Shiv Sena.
“The court’s decision is important…We tried to bring the salaries of MSRTC employees in line with Seventh Pay Commission’s recommendations. The state government has also promised to intervene if their salaries are not credited by the tenth day every month,” deputy CM Pawar further said.
BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis condemned Friday’s incident but also questioned the police’s laxness.
“The entire media knew about the movement of protesters. Some of my friends in the media told me yesterday that they had received messages (about the protest) at 2.30 pm. So the important issue is what were the police doing,” Fadnavis asked.
West Bengal chief minister Banerjee, tweeted about the incident on Saturday. “I condemn the attack on the residence of one of India’s senior most public figures, Sharad Pawar @PawarSpeaks and welcome the statement of @CMOMaharashtra for stern action against the offenders,” she said.