On Wednesday, February 13, Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy staged a sit-in protest outside Raj Nivas, the official residence of the union territory’s Lieutenant Governor (LG) Kiran Bedi.
After a policy disagreement between Bedi and Narayanasamy reached an impasse, the latter gathered his ministers and took the protest to Bedi’s doorstep.
What are they protesting?
After Bedi encountered two-wheeler drivers on the road without helmets, she ordered an instant implementation of a mandatory helmet rule for anyone on a two-wheeler including a fine of Rs 100, if the rule was violated.
Narayanasamy instead wanted a gradual, phase by phase enforcement of this rule and sent a letter to LG Bedi asking for the same. After a week passed without Bedi’s response, he decided to agitate for his demand in the form of an ongoing protest.
Bedi took to Twitter to denounce CM Narayanasamy who she believes is obstructing law from enforcing the mandatory helmet rule and, as a result, allows accidents to take place frequently.
Reports say that the sit-in turned violent as the protestors got increasingly frustrated. Bedi posted photographs of lawmakers in Puducherry violently smashing helmets and said, “Will they take responsibility for past & future deaths on road, caused by head injuries?”
Although Narayanasamy agrees with the need for road safety and helmet, he demanded for a slower implementation. “She [Bedi] is behaving like a police constable for implementing the order of wearing compulsory helmets for two wheelers by standing on the road and she is pulling the motorists, which is causing the inconvenience to the public”, Narayanasamy said.
In response, Bedi clarified that her position of Lieutenant Governor is one of law enforcement and her team of police officers are “duty bound to ensure Rule of Law.” She also said that Narayanasamy and his group were in contempt of the Supreme Court and Madras High Court judgments on the Motor Vehicle (MV) Act which says that every person on a two-wheeler must wear protective headgear.
Beyond the helmet issue, Narayanasamy also accused Bedi of making daily governance difficult for the elected Congress party in Puducherry by overreaching her constitutional authority.
The protestors led by Narayanasamy are demanding that Bedi fulfill 39 government demands, such as the free rice scheme, recruitment of nurses, and paying the salaries of unaided school teachers.
Narayanasamy and his ministers have also blocked Bedi’s entrances, making it difficult for her to appear at scheduled events, and for her staff and visitors to enter or leave the Raj Nivas.
On Wednesday, Bedi penned letter to Narayanasamy saying, “All matters you have mentioned in the letter need an examination for a considered response… Besides you never said in your letter that unless you get a reply by February 13th you and your colleagues shall come and sit on a dharna outside.”
She also invited him for a meeting on February 21st at 10 am.
Narayanasamy responded to her via letter again calling his protest a “Gandhian” method of agitation and a “people’s protest”. He also accused Bedi of running a “high-handed dictatorship”.
Narayanasamy warned that the protest will continue unless all his demands are met.
Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius.