Villagers barge into Dow complex, torch premises

Express India, July 26, 2008
loksatta dow.jpg
Pune, July 25: Around 150 people, including some locals from Shinde-Vasuli village of Khed taluka, forced their way into the Dow India complex and torched the premises on Friday. The resulting fire lasted over two hours and was extinguished by fire tenders rushed from Pimpri-Chinchwad. The Pune rural police have arrested 15 villagers on charges of vandalism.
Khed Tehsildar Subash Badge said this was the first time the villagers had resorted to ransacking of the complex. Till now, they had limited themselves to non-violent protests against Dow India.
The police said two storerooms, a JCB, a crane and a water tanker had been set on fire. The watchman’s post was ransacked while the compound wall was partly smashed. At the entrance to the Dow complex, a board was left behind with the words ‘‘Sadguru Sant Tukaram Maharaj Warkari Vidyapeeth’’ scribbled on it.
‘‘Our warkaris were involved in the incident. This is the holy place of Sant Tukaram. We fear that given Dow’s history in Bhopal and elsewhere, its presence here would adversely affect the environment,’’ said Pune Zilla Warkari Maharashtra president R K Ranjane.
‘‘For the last six months, we have been protesting non-violently but the Government’s inaction has prompted us to take this move,’’ he added. ‘‘We want to build a school at these premises.’’
Dow India did not put any figure to the losses incurred but company director (Public Affairs), N Y Sanglikar said that the damage was in crores of rupees. “Our officers are currently reviewing the site and a financial estimate of the damage should be known soon. However, a lot of records on computers have been destroyed and data on soil and water conditions have been lost. Such damage cannot be estimated in terms of rupees,” he said.
It all began at 9 am when the villagers barged their way into the complex and forced the security guards to relinquish their cell phones to thwart them from calling for help. “They finished what they
came to do in about half an hour,” informed Badge.
“The police arrived by 10.30 am and the fire tenders were on the spot by 11 am. The fire was put out by noon,” he said.
The Pune rural police said that three teams had been assigned to arrest the offenders. “Fifteen villagers have been arrested. At present close to 100 policemen, including 15 officers from the State Rural Police Force (SRPF) and two striking forces, have been posted here,” said Pune Rural Police Additional SP Ashok Morale.
He said that the security arrangements would continue till the investigations are complete. “The security guards have given us the names of close to 25 villagers. We will detain them once they are tracked,” he said.
Shinde village wore a deserted look, with most people working in the fields. No one was willing to comment on the morning’s incident. The Zilla Parishad school was also nearly empty following the ruckus at the Dow complex and due to the heavy police presence. On Thursday, the Dow company directors had visited the area under heavy police bandobast.
On July 11, the Bombay High Court had directed the district authorities to grant protection to Dow India’s complex, following the latter’s petition in court.

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