Garment workers' protest over pension fund turns violent in information technology hub of Bengaluru

Police personnel stand gaurd near burnt buses after violence that followed a protest by garment factory workers in Bangalore on April 19, 2016.
Police personnel stand gaurd near burnt buses after violence that followed a protest by garment factory workers in Bangalore on April 19, 2016.

Thousands of Indian garment workers angry with the government over changes to their pension funds clashed with police in the information technology hub of Bengaluru on Tuesday as security forces fired teargas to control the crowds.

Police detained about 100 people after protesters blocked roads and some turned to violence, Bengaluru police commissioner N. S. Megharikh told Reuters.

Television footage showed smoke pouring from burnt-out buses and a smashed police vehicle.

"Now the situation is under control," Megharikh said.

Police personnel stand guard near burnt buses after violence that followed a protest by garment factory workers in Bangalore on April 19, 2016. (AFP)
Police personnel stand guard near burnt buses after violence that followed a protest by garment factory workers in Bangalore on April 19, 2016. (AFP)

The protests come after the government proposed changes in February to how employees can withdraw savings from the Employee Provident Fund (EPF).

Only about 36 million of the country's 1.3 billion people contribute to the EPF.

In March, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley reversed the proposal to tax pension fund withdrawals. But a plan to restrict when employees can withdraw savings from the EPF remains.

The protests against the restrictions began on Monday in the city after about 200,000 garment workers, most of them women, took to the streets.

An Indian policeman prepares to fire a teargas shell to disperse a crowd following a protest by garment factory workers in Bangalore on April 19, 2016. (AFP)
An Indian policeman prepares to fire a teargas shell to disperse a crowd following a protest by garment factory workers in Bangalore on April 19, 2016. (AFP)

Jayaram K. Ramaiah, an official at the Garment and Textile Workers Union, said garment workers earning a monthly salary of 6,500 rupees ($98) depended on access to their pensions.

"Not just garment workers, all workers in the unorganised sector will be affected by this rule," he said. "What about the poor people who use it for important purposes like marriage or education?"

Ramaiah blamed "anti-social elements" for attacking police with stones and said 20 of his members were injured when police charged protesters with batons.

Source: TRT World