TN highway blocked amid flash protest by women over food poisoning


 A large number of women workers of a company near here, which assembles and manufactures smartphone spares, resorted to a flash protest, blocking the busy Chennai-Bengaluru highway that led to a traffic snarl on Saturday.

 The protest, which also spilled over to two other locations, affecting traffic on the Chennai-Tirupati route as well for some time, was called off after the intervention of authorities.  

Police said employees reported vomiting and diarrhoea after they consumed food provided at the hostel canteen and 132 of them had to be treated at hospitals and except for four people, who continue to be treated, all others have been discharged.

An FIR has been filed in connection with the food poisoning and a probe is on, an official said. The Vellavedu hostel could accommodate a ‘large number’ of people, authorities said adding inspections were held following the incident. 

It could not be immediately ascertained if the facility was being run complying with all norms stipulated for accommodating workers and ensuring food safety. As ‘misinformation’ and ‘suspicions’ spread among employees including rumours that at least two of the affected workers were dead, they resorted to protest, police added. 

The workers blocked the Chennai-Bengaluru highway off Sunguvarchatiram and authorities including police officials arrived at the spot while the number of protesters swelled. 

Kancheepuram district collector M Aarthi and police superintendent M Sudhakar held talks with agitators and assured them that workers are safe following which the protest was called off. 

Standing amid protesting workers, Aarthi made video calls to women employees suspected to be seriously affected and requested the protesters to directly speak to their colleagues. 

The collector reassured the protesters that all are safe and healthy. The district collector told reporters that a panel would be formed for better monitoring and inspections of facilities used by workers. 

The company is yet to comment on the matter and it could not be immediately ascertained if the protest had any impact on the firm’s routine activities. In view of the protest, many vehicles including cargo trucks were stranded on the highway in Kancheepuram district for at least 11 hours.

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