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Why Goa's lifeguards are on satyagraha

December 30, 2015 19:17 IST

The Goa government on Wednesday said it was monitoring the situation on the beaches in the wake of strike by lifeguards which entered its second day, even as 361 lifeguards were arrested after they took out a protest march defying prohibitory orders.

They were later released after being produced in a court in Panaji.

The lifeguards, mainly demanding regularisation of services, went on an indefinite strike on Tuesday, prompting the state government to invoke Essential Services Maintenance Act against them.

The protesters, however, said they will continue with their agitation in support of their demands.

"The government and the company (which mans the beaches) have decided not to intervene into the matter, so we have decided to continue our strike. Now it is 'satyagraha' for us," All India Trade Union Congress leader Christopher Fonsenca said at the Azad Maidan in Panaji where the lifeguards are currently camping.

Fonseca said the agitators have put forth a legitimate demand which is being ignored by the company. The lifeguard services along Goa's beaches are manned by Drishti Lifesaving Services Private Limited.

"We will continue to be on the streets till our demands are passed," Fonseca said.

As the strike entered the second day on Wednesday, the agitators took to streets during the morning traffic hours.

Police tried to stop the protest march, but had to arrest the agitators when the situation appeared to be getting tensed.

"A total of 361 people were arrested under section 151 of IPC (knowingly joining or continuing in assembly of five or more persons after it has been commanded to disperse). They were produced before the sub-divisional magistrate," police inspector Siddhant Shirodkar said.

Meanwhile, the tourism department is monitoring the situation on the beaches considering the New Year rush as several lifeguards have joined the strike.

State Tourism Minister Dilip Parulekar said that his department officials are on the job to monitor situation on the beaches.

"Though there's a strike by lifeguards, the situation is normal. There are enough lifeguards," Parulekar said.

He said the private management agency, which has been given the task of providing lifeguards, has pooled-in resources from other states to overcome the crisis.

The Drishti Lifesaving Services Private Limited has been given a contract to man the about 105-km-long Goa's coastline with its 600 odd lifeguards.

Earlier, the minister refused to hold any talks with the striking lifeguards, claiming that it is between the company and the workers to decide on the problems.

"It is their internal matter. Our concern is safety of tourists on the beaches which are monitoring," Parulekar said.

However, the lifeguards providing company said it is well-equipped to man the beach line.

"The company has made alternate arrangements by assigning senior lifeguards from its sister concern in Goa and Mumbai and select group of volunteers who worked tirelessly to ensure that neither were the tourists inconvenienced nor they were in any peril whilst enjoying their holiday in the coastal waters of Goa," Drishti Lifesaving Services Private Limited's chief executive officer Manoj Agriwal said.

Terming the current strike as illegal and unjustified, Agriwal said the company would take stringent action under ESMA, Payment of Wages Act and under other applicable lawful provisions against its employees and also those responsible for instigation.

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