VDF personnel relay-hunger strike: Police intervenes

NNN | IMPHAL, Aug 2: Manipur police on Sunday foiled agitating Village Defence Force (VDF) personnel from staging a relay-hunger strike in Imphal. Under the aegis of All Manipur VDF Welfare Association (AMVWA), VDF personnel are on “gun and pen down strike” since July 16. The relay-strike was staged after the association threatened to launch intensified forms of agitations if the state government fails to fulfill their demands.

The key demand of the VDF personnel is to hike their monthly honorarium, which should be 75% of the pay scale of a police constable. Other demands include regularisation of their services, keeping service security, payment of 13 months salaries and arms allowance.

Few days ago, the association had threatened to intensify their strike by resorting to various forms of agitation if the state government fails to consider their demands by July 31. Accordingly, leaders of the association including presidents and secretaries of district units of the association staged the relay-hunger hunger strike on Sunday.

After about an hour of commencement of the strike at Kwakeithel Bazar in Imphal West district, a police team dispersed the VDF personnel by vandalising the materials used in staging the hunger strike. While condemning the police action, the VDF personnel alleged lack of sympathy on the part of the government towards addressing the grievances faced by them.

“Since July 16 we are on ‘gun and pen down strike’ and our demands are ignored by the government,” AMVWA general secretary Ch Sanjit told reporters after the police foiled their hunger strike. The government failed to notice the contribution of VDF personnel who are in the frontline fighting Covid-19, he alleged. He further said that August 2 was the beginning of the relay hunger strike and they planned to continue the protest till their demands are considered by the government.

The VDF personnel will stage the sit-in-protest in their respective posts across the state until the government is ready to address their demands, he announced. “We will not retreat. We will continue our strike until our demands are considered in a positive way,” the association leader asserted.

The VDFs were first recruited in March 2009 as part of the state government’s policy to voluntarily defend villages from militant attacks. Currently, a total of 10,050 VDF personnel are on active duty with many of them attaching to the police stations even as most of them are stationed at VDF outposts opened across the state and assisting the police in maintaining law and order.

Recently, the state government had approved to hike their monthly honorarium from the current Rs 7,500 plus Rs 2,000 as ration money to Rs 9,500 plus Rs 2,000 as ration money. While claiming their demands are genuine, the VDF personnel said that they were performing duty like police/Manipur Rifles/ Indian Reserve Battalion.

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