India Business
Ensure peace, Jharkhand told after Reliance Fresh protests
May 13, 2007 - 6:45:40 PM

Ranchi, May 13 - The Prime Minister's Office - Sunday asked the law and order agencies in Jharkhand to ensure peace and calm a day after the protests by vegetable vendors over the opening of Reliance Fresh shops here turned violent.

Thirteen people were arrested for violence Saturday and two policemen suspended for dereliction of duty following the attack on three shops of Reliance Fresh - a project promoted by Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries.

According to official sources, the PMO contacted officials in Chief Minister Madhu Koda's office to immediately look into the matter and issue necessary directions to ensure peace and calm in the state.

The union home ministry has also contacted Jharkhand police chief J.B. Mahapatra over the violence, for which five reports were lodged in two police stations - three in Lalpur and two in Bariatu, the sources added.

Among the 13 arrested is Uday Shankar Ojha, leader of Lok Janshakti Party -, who was reportedly taken into custody on the directions of the chief minister. At least two-dozen protesters were injured in a police baton charge, following which security at the outlets was enhanced, officials said.

According to a Reliance official, the protesting vendors damaged property worth Rs.5 million. One Reliance Fresh shop in Morabadi was badly ransacked and the protesters looted dry fruits and damaged vegetables and other commodities.

The vendors were unhappy with the arrival of Reliance to retail vegetables. 'We have been selling vegetables for generations. Reliance Fresh is a threat to our very survival and causing employment problems,' said Phulmani Devi, a vendor.

'We will starve to death if Reliance is not stopped from selling vegetables.'

This was the second time in a week that vegetable sellers took out processions to protest the opening of Reliance stores.

The group buys the produce directly from farmers at comparatively higher prices and since middlemen are eliminated, it retails it at much lower rates compared with roadside vendors.

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