Bhubaneswar: An order prohibiting any gathering of people was clamped in Talcher coalfields in Odisha’s Angul district as tension escalated two days after the region witnessed violent clashes over job cuts, police said Sunday.

The order under Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) prohibits assembly of more than four people. It will remain in force until the situation normalises, Angul district Superintendent of Police Narasimha Bhola told IANS.

At least three people were injured when a mob led by legislator Braja Kishor Pradhan Friday ransacked the mining offices, forcibly stopped operations at two railway sidings, and clashed with the workers at the coalfields near Talcher, about 170 km from the state capital Bhubaneswar.

The coalfields belonged to Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd. (MCL), a unit of state-run Coal India. Seven open cast mines in the area, which produce around 200,000 tonnes of coal per day, were shut after the violence.

Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd. supplies coal to several power companies, including the state power utility NTPC (earlier National Thermal Power Corporation), Talcher Thermal Power Station and aluminium maker NALCO.

Although operations and transportation at two mines resumed amid tight security, other mines continued to remain shut, Bhola said.

The trouble at the coalfields began when police took 49 people, including the legislator, into custody and allowed a contractor to resume work at two railway sidings Thursday.

The operations at the sidings stopped over a month and half ago after villagers protested that the contractor, denying them jobs, engaged his own workers. The villagers have been protesting since then.

Led by the legislator Friday, the villagers forcibly shut mines, burnt 35 bikes and four multi-utility vehicles before ransacking offices at the mining sites. They also removed a fishplate from the rail track used for coal transportation.

The irate villagers also set fire to an oil tanker and an excavator Saturday. Police managed to chase protestors away when they were attempting to torch a conveyor belt used for the transportation of coal to state-run NALCO, the police official said.

Police have arrested the legislator and deployed more than 500 policemen at the coalfields to prevent any untoward incidents. “The situation is tense but under control,” Bhola said.

As the coal supply stopped, NTPC has already shut down two units of its 5X600 MW power plant in the region. If the coal supply is not resumed fully, many other plants are likely to be hit, officials said.

Source: IANS