In a major outbreak of industrial violence following the death of a trade union leader, a top official of a ceramic company in Yanam, a small enclave of Puducherry in Andhra Pradesh, was killed by workers at his residence here on Friday.
The workers went on the rampage after their leader M.S. Murali Mohan was killed in police action outside the factory. A group went to the house of president (Operations) of Regency Ceramics Limited K. C. Chandrasekhar and attacked him, resulting in serious head injuries.
Trouble had been brewing in the factory since January 2, with more than 800 contract workers staging protests daily demanding that the services of senior workers be regularised and wages revised.
Mr. Mohan, leading these protests, went to the factory at 6 a.m. on Friday and tried to obstruct workers going for the morning shift. Police personnel attacked him with batons, resulting in chest injuries. He collapsed and was rushed to hospital, where he died.
As news of his death spread, workers started destroying the company's assets. Dividing themselves into groups, they first targeted buses being run for students of the Regency Institute of Technology, dousing them with petrol and setting them ablaze. Another group went to Mr. Chandrasekhar's house and attacked him. He was shifted to a corporate hospital at Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh, where he died.
A group of workers barged into the factory and torched lorries laden with ceramic tiles and two-wheelers belonging to the regular employees. In all, 50 lorries and 10 buses, besides dozens of two-wheelers, were destroyed.
As the situation went out of control, the police resorted to batoncharge and mobs retaliated by throwing stones. The police opened several rounds of fire, resulting in bullet injuries to nine workers. The workers were rushed to the Government General Hospital at Kakinada. Their condition was said to be stable.
Meanwhile, hundreds of local residents rushed to the factory and the college and looted computers, tables, chairs and ceramic tiles. In the melee, the nearby warehouse of a gas agency was also ransacked, and people made away with 416 refill cylinders.
The police were rushed from Kakinada to restore normality and senior police officials of Puducherry rushed to Yanam.
Prohibitory orders were imposed in the town and a holiday was declared for educational institutions.
Regency Ceramics is the biggest industry in Yanam, which is situated about 30 km from Kakinada and has a population of over 42,000. The company employs 1,200 workers and has an annual turnover of Rs. 250 crore.