The distressed widows had been leading agitation time to time since 1998 after the ECL had shown reluctance to engage them.
The ECL, a sick Coal India subsidiary that itself has been reeling under tremendous fund crunch and was referred to the B.I.F.R. pleaded that it had no way to accept the widows due to BIFR estrictions. On 15 August, 2002 the APWR led its maiden movement that yielded absorption of 151 women with the sick company. The group comprised of simple house wives after a comprehensive training were deployed as security guards. Widows like Shashi Bala Sharma, Sonali Paul, Moumita Singh with also inspired ECL to consider commando training for them. At the end of first phase training at Kunustoria guest house, the ECL declared to set up a Special Task Force with the female security guards. Mr. T.K. Sreedharan, Chief Security Officer, ECL had stated, "The company board has decided to create the STF in the style of a Commando force. For the purpose we require 100 to 150 women in the force." Women are given Judo, karate, fire fighting and other self-defence training. " Because they were just house wives and had no idea how to confront the odds in life. We also taught them how to registrar an FIR and liaison with other agencies," said Mr Sreedharan. The ECL had planned to combat both the unrest trade union movements backed by female agitators and also the illegal coal lifters in the company areas.
Incidentally the widows, now security guards had to tackle their fasting comrades today. The leader of the APWR, Ms Shashibala Sharma, though absorbed by ECL did not perform her duty as a guard today. She rather preferred to share the fasting dais with her former comrades. She stated, ‘it is unjust that our comrades are still left unattended. I could not afford to resist them under the cover of company uniform and resort lathi charge upon my friends who shared a long battle with me!’ She added, ‘my point was very much transparent. I shall share the platform till a lone widow is left to be unattended.’ The women have already sought intervention by the union coal minister Ms Mamata Banerjee. In a letter to the minister Ms Sharma complained of gender disparity against the ECL. The APWR stated, ‘you are a woman. So you may easily understand our problem. When 3000 male dependents have been absorbed by ECL in just five years, only 151 female have been engaged alleging dearth of gainful deployment possibility.’ They added, ‘we the simple house wives have better proved our efficiency and necessity by working in the field where the men prefer to sho their macho vigour.’ "We are a loss making concern and still we are under the active consideration of BIFR. So we could not allow employment just emotionally," said a top ECL official. After the fasting programme was geared up when the naxalite backed IFTU joined hands at Sanktoria this afternoon, the ECL authority agreed to release five token appointment letters today itself. Mr R.N. Singh, Chief Personnel Manager, ECL picked up Mr Sunil Pal, Iftu state general secretary for a closed door discussion. Mr Singh latter assured that the appointments would be considered with top priority.