Wednesday, 19 January, 2022
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Kejriwal’s minister’s complaint led to Modi govt action against top Delhi civil servants

Modi govt Sunday took action against 4 officers — 3 IAS and one DANICS — for their alleged role in the surge of migrants at a Delhi bus terminal Saturday. 

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New Delhi: It was a complaint from the Arvind Kejriwal administration that led the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to take action against four Delhi government officials, including three IAS officers, for their alleged role in the surge of migrants at the Anand Vihar bus terminal this weekend, ThePrint has learnt.

The central government had Sunday suspended Additional Chief Secretary (Transport Department) Renu Sharma and Principal Secretary (Finance) Rajiv Verma, and issued showcase notices to Additional Chief Secretary (Home and Land Buildings departments) Satya Gopal and Seelampur Subdivisional Magistrate (SDM) Ajay Kumar Arora for dereliction of duty and failing to “ensure public health and safety” during the lockdown to combat Covid-19. 

According to a senior officer in the central government, a Delhi minister had approached the MHA early Sunday with a complaint against the officials, following which action was taken.

The minister, the officer said, had complained that the officers “independently made the decision to arrange buses for migrants”. This, the officer added, did not go down well with “the Delhi government leadership”.

“We received a complaint and we acted upon it. Since the officers are from the UT (union territory) cadre, only the Centre is authorised to take any disciplinary action against them,” the officer said. “They were found to be at fault and so the direction was issued.”

While Sharma, Verma and Gopal are IAS officers, Arora is a member of the Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar Civil Service (DANICS).


Also Read: Delhi Police is also feeding thousands every day — away from cameras


Chaos in the capital

The Modi government announced a sudden lockdown last week to enforce strict social distancing in a bid to check the spread of Covid-19, a highly-infectious disease that has killed over 30 people in India so far. In an unprecedented decision, all public transport, including buses and trains, was suspended.

However, the decision seemed to backfire as thousands of migrants, rendered jobless and homeless by the shutdown of businesses and markets in cities, began the journey back to their villages on foot.

To help out the migrants, both Delhi and Uttar Pradesh governments Saturday arranged buses to ferry them to their destinations. 

But the chaos didn’t subside. Images from later in the evening showed a sea of migrants at the Anand Vihar Bus Terminal on the UP-Delhi border, an occurrence that constituted a Covid-19 hazard and could have possibly caused a law-and-order problem.

The claim that the Delhi government sees the officers as having acted unilaterally stands in contrast with statements issued by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who said on the record Saturday that the administration was arranging buses to ferry the migrants to the Delhi borders.

To add to the uncertainty around the episode, the Kejriwal administration, which is generally vocal about decisions taken by the central government or the lieutenant governor regarding the union territory’s civil servants, has maintained silence on the four officials. 

ThePrint reached Sisodia and the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) through calls and messages for a comment about the central government’s action against the four officials, but couldn’t get one. Sisodia was unreachable and the CMO refused to comment.


Also Read: Migrants to get wages wherever they are — cities, villages or in transit: Labour minister


Delhi govt ‘didn’t issue orders’

Officials in the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) told ThePrint that the buses were arranged in line with instructions from the Delhi transport department, which is headed by Renu Sharma. The department is overseen by transport minister Kailash Gahlot, who did not revert to requests for comment. 

“We don’t do anything at our own will, we received instructions,” a  DTC official said.

When asked who had issued the instructions, the official said, “We come under the transport department and our communication is only with them.”

Officials in the Delhi government, meanwhile, appeared to distance themselves from the order. “The order that the Delhi government gave was only for workers in the essential services, not to ferry all migrant workers to their villages,” a Delhi government official said, referring to lockdown exemptions allowed for DTC buses to help maintain essential services.


Also Read: Mass exodus of migrants: Are they the Covid-19 lockdown violators or victims?


‘Didn’t do their job right’

Asked about the individual charges against each officer, multiple sources in the Delhi government said Sharma was suspended for her go-ahead to the DTC to arrange buses, while Verma was punished for allegedly failing to assure the migrants that they would be given all essentials and that they need not leave Delhi.

“Verma’s job is to keep migrants and other people indoors and ensure they get proper food and other amenities, which he did not do well,” one of the sources said.

“His job was to coordinate with all district magistrates, who report to him, and ensure that migrants are assured that they will keep getting items of daily needs,” the source added.

Satya Gopal was issued a showcause notice, the sources said, as he did not apprise the Delhi government of the potential law-and-order problem that was emerging.

“He deals with the home department and was responsible for informing the government in case of any law and order situation during the lockdown, which he failed to do,” one of the sources added.

It is still unclear why Arora was given a showcause notice, the sources said. “Anand Vihar, where the crowd gathered, falls in the east district while Ajay Arora is in charge of the northeast district,” said yet another source.

According to the source, what irked the government further was that the two officials “did not step up to prevent the crisis and instead stayed put inside their offices”.

ThePrint reached the four officers for comment, but didn’t get any. While Renu Sharma said over the phone that she did not want to comment, Verma did not respond to calls. Arora and Gopal could not be contacted. 

‘Central govt unhappy’

Meanwhile, sources in Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal’s office said the central government was “extremely unhappy” about the situation in Delhi over the weekend, especially the crowding of migrant labourers at Anand Vihar. 

As the representative of the central government in Delhi, Baijal shares a role in Delhi’s administration with the elected government.

Sources in the Delhi government confirmed that the LG had written to Kejriwal to express his concerns about “mismanagement”.

The LG was also not taken into confidence when the Kejriwal administration decided last week to increase the number of buses on roads from 20 per cent to 50 per cent of the fleet, ThePrint has learnt.

The day after the four officials were taken action against, the LG directed all district magistrates, deputy commissioners of police and other officers to ensure strict enforcement of the lockdown.   


Also Read: ‘No one wants to go near them’ — returning migrant workers in Bihar face social boycott


 

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5 COMMENTS

  1. These articles again beg the question does the GoI,the topmost constitutional authority of India,realize India is in a state of War~
    Look, by some strange quirk of events, I have USED my brains and my neo cortex is more functional with common sense than many others. And in my 7 decade career and life I have never had to kowtow or bend down before anyone in subservience, subordination or submission against my will. I respect authority and am humbled by humility of persons always.I have worked on my own terms fairly and reasonably. I realize my FAMILY IS I DANGER OF collapsing SCM and other bottlenecks in inter state borders now, where drivers have fled from goods laden trucks, trucks are stranded with essential goods, mfg like Dabur and others are having serious issues getting their workers to he factories etc.etc.~ which no politician and bureaucrat are aware of because they are focused on their immediate crisis jobs. Well, who is LOOKING AT THE BIGGERICTURE, ANALYZING, DECISION MAKING, PLANNING TO IMPLEMENT~I am asking…..read the newspapers…..
    I am asking if this is WAR, which it is and leaders still dont realize it and are following the Constitution by the T, then it is about time Constitutional ustaads, big dads exerts ~ and we have plenty on all sides~ few brilliants too!~ look u the Constitution for actions and provisos liked to such situations. Yes, EMERGENCY provisions may be referred but Modi, if his limitations are indeed to be understood now, will think ten times as the word emergency is involved ad his future may be at stake!
    SHOULD HE NOT DO SO, then HE IS THE LEADER INDIA NEEDS NOW.
    All these articles above relae to IAS~IPS~ IAAS etc folks not used to this scenario, untrained as well, despite crores of Indian money sent on their brief courses in Harvard, LSE etc, all funded by govt!
    We need different persons in such situations . Not bureaucrats who can be made scapegoats by useless politicians as in such cases where were these politicians when the destitute who voted them to power congregated in ANAND BIHAR in millions………were they being NERO !
    So Modi needs a different set of advisers now . He better see fa sighted because within the limitations of his role there may be no solutions.
    OR IS HE ALREADY WORKING ON DISASTER MANAGEMENT FROM A COMMON SENSE perspective that will surprise us and ensure he can fight the final War with DEVIL CHINA……

  2. Well done. The arrogance and incompetence of some of these IAS types has been breathtaking. People blaming Kejriwal here but he was quite clear about food early on. The centre was also clear- stay where you are. The job or IAS is to execute that and they failed.

  3. At the end of the article one still does not know who was at fault and why ? Pretty confusing piece of reporting !!!

  4. Very unlikely that these officers took the decision on their own. If Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia were announcing that buses are being arranged for them to go to Anand Vihar, it’s very clear that they are to be blamed and these poor officers are being made a scapegoat. Generally, IAS officers are not trapped this way but here, it looks like that they have been made scapegoats.

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