Wednesday, May 31, 2023
Support Our Journalism
HomePoliticsControversial Haryana minister Devender Babli accused of manhandling Dalit municipal engineer

Controversial Haryana minister Devender Babli accused of manhandling Dalit municipal engineer

Babli, who called protesting sarpanches ‘thieves’ last month, has also been accused of using casteist slurs against engineer. The two disagreed over payments for a development project.

Text Size:

Chandigarh: Days after he was criticised for calling the sarpanches protesting the Haryana government’s e-tendering process “thieves”, Haryana development and panchayats Minister Devender Singh Babli has been caught in the middle of yet another row. A Dalit municipal engineer has accused Babli — a leader of the Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) — of manhandling him and using casteist slurs following a disagreement over the release of some funds for a public project. 

Ramandeep, a municipal engineer at the Tohana Municipal Corporation who goes by only one name, has alleged that Babli — also the MLA from Tohana — had kicked the chair he was sitting on, roughed him up and used casteist slurs when the engineer allegedly refused to release some payments to a local contractor. He made the allegations in a letter he wrote to the district municipal commissioner on 4 March, a copy of which is with ThePrint.

The letter has also been marked to Haryana Urban Local Bodies Minister Kamal Gupta, the additional chief secretary and director of the Urban Local Bodies department, and the president and executive officer of the Tohana Municipal Corporation.

While Ramandeep claims that the contractor’s payments were held over because his goods failed a quality test, Babli has denied the allegations and accused Ramandeep of having demanded a bribe for clearing the bills.

“Before my election as MLA from Tohana, things were in very bad shape. Certain officials refused to move files without receiving bribes. I decided to change the system, and now I am facing false allegations like this,” Babli told ThePrint. 

Also Read: E-tender is CM Khattar’s new mantra. Haryana sarpanches call it attack on ‘village culture’

The incident

In his letter, Ramandeep claimed the minister had summoned him to his residence in Bidhai Khera village in Fatehabad district in order to discuss the progress of some infrastructure projects in Town, and that he went there with two junior engineers (JEs).

“During our meeting, the minister pressured me to release payments of the contractor for the work of paving streets with interlocking bricks done in Ward 17 and Ward 23,” Ramandeep said in his letter. “I told the minister that the samples of interlocking bricks taken from the work site have failed quality tests, and there were some other deficiencies in the work. I told the minister that releasing payment for these works would amount to misuse of government funds”.

The minister’s aide then accused Ramandeep of demanding bribes from contractors, upon which “the minister kicked the chair I was sitting on”, Ramandeep says in the letter. 

“The minister asked who made a person of my caste a municipal engineer and then used such abusive words which are not possible for me to write in my complaint,” he said in the letter, adding that the minister also demanded that some contracts that had already been awarded also be cancelled because they went to his rivals’ businesses. 

“Listening to the minister’s shouts, both the JEs and a municipal commissioner, Joney Mehta, tried to intervene, but the minister started manhandling me in their presence. The minister also threatened me with dire consequences and an inquiry into all the works executed under me,” Ramandeep said. 

In his letter, Ramandeep said he feared for his life and demanded a transfer out of Tohana, even telling the district municipal commissioner that he was going on “leave under protest” until this was done.

ThePrint reached Ramandeep for comment, but he refused, insisting that his immediate boss, executive engineer Sunder Sheoran, should be spoken to instead. 

On his part, Sheoran told ThePrint that when the tiles failed the quality test the contractor responsible for it, was sent a notice.

“The contractor has failed to reply to our notice and instead wanted to get his payments released through the minister’s pressure,” Sheoran told ThePrint. 

Babli, however, told ThePrint that he wasn’t aware that the tiles had failed the quality test and that it was never brought to his notice.

Babli’s earlier controversies

Babli is no stranger to controversies. Most recent among these was last month when he called the sarpanches who were protesting the Haryana government’s new e-tendering policy “chors” (thieves). 

Protesters opposing the 2021 policy — which aims at introducing e-tendering for development works undertaken by Panchayat Raj Institutions — claim it takes away their powers by routing projects through government officials. 

Babli’s remarks, which came as opposition parties extended their support to the protests, drew objections not only from rivals but also from within the ruling establishment. 

Even as Babli denied ever using the word “chor”,  the state’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) unit chief Om Parkash Dhankar as well as Ajay Singh Chautala, the national president of Babli’s own party, the JJP, criticised him for his choice of words.

In response to this, Babli asked both leaders to focus on running their respective organisations and leave the government to him. 

The remark didn’t sit well with Chautala, who, calling Babli a madman, said the leader needed to think before he spoke. 

Who is Devender Babli

Coming from a family of farmers, Babli made his fortune through businesses — which included leasing cabs to IT firms and some real estate ventures — in cities including Gurugram in the early 2000s. 

From 2009, he began to spend large sums of his own money for social and development causes in the assembly segment, and started hosting a lavish lunch every New Year’s Eve. 

This event, called the Madhur Milan Samaroh, continues to date, with Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and Deputy CM Dushyant Chautala having attended it this time. 

Babli contested the 2014 Haryana assembly elections as an Independent, and, although he lost, he managed to poll over 38,000 votes, coming in just behind the BJP and the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD).

Once considered close to former Haryana Congress president Ashok Tanwar, Babli joined the JJP, then a new party, just before the 2019 assembly election and won the Tohana seat.

Babli, along with the BJP’s Kamal Gupta, was made a minister on 28 December 2021, when Khattar expanded his cabinet.

(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)

Also Read: ‘Allegations don’t make one guilty’ — Haryana CM Khattar defends Sandeep Singh in sexual assault row 


Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Support Our Journalism

India needs fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism, packed with on-ground reporting. ThePrint – with exceptional reporters, columnists and editors – is doing just that.

Sustaining this needs support from wonderful readers like you.

Whether you live in India or overseas, you can take a paid subscription by clicking here.

Support Our Journalism

Most Popular