Tense standoff over blockade threat

The tense standoff following the decision of the Vilappil Janakeeya Samithi (people's association) to block trucks transporting solid waste to the treatment plant in the suburban village went down a notch on Sunday evening following a high-level meeting involving the district administration, the police, and the City Corporation.

The meeting decided not to operate garbage trucks to Vilappil on Sunday night, in view of the potential for trouble at a time when the police force was already stretched thin because of massive deployment for the day-long hartal on Monday.

District Collector P.M. Francis, Inspector-General of Police K. Padmakumar, and Mayor K. Chandrika participated in the meeting.

Earlier, the Corporation had insisted on operating 26 garbage trucks to the processing plant under heavy police protection. The decision was guided by the need to avoid garbage accumulation in the city, considering the hartals on Saturday and Monday, when the collection mechanism is suspended.

Mobilisation

In a desperate bid aimed at forcing a shutdown of the plant, the Janakeeya Samithi has announced an indefinite blockade of trucks from Sunday night. Volunteers, including women and children, have been mobilised for the agitation.

Police officials told the meeting that defying the blockade on the opening day was likely to provoke the agitators. They warned that this could lead to a law-and-order problem.

Realising the need to avoid a confrontation, the Corporation backed down from its stand and agreed to suspend the operation of its garbage trucks for a day.

Corporation officials, however, refused to divulge what they intended to do from Monday to keep the garbage moving from the city to the treatment plant.

A. Akbar, Superintendent of Police, Rural; Assistant Commissioners of Police; Deputy Mayor G. Happikumar, chairmen of standing committees V.S. Padmakumar (Works), Palayam Rajan (Welfare) and P. Syamkumar (Taxes); Corporation Health Officer D. Sreekumar; United Democratic Front leader Johnson Joseph; and Bharatiya Janata Party leader P. Ashok Kumar attended the meeting.

Meanwhile, the Janakeeya Samithi went ahead with preparations to prevent the entry of garbage trucks into the plant.

In the morning, women offered Pongala in 11 pots to mark the 11 years of “tortured existence” since the plant started functioning in the panchayat.