Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh Minister of State (Irrigation and Water Resources) Dinesh Khatik Wednesday shot off a lengthy resignation letter to Union Home Minister Amit Shah alleging that none of his orders were being followed by officials in his department because he is a Dalit. His complaint about not being given any work was seen as a veiled dig at his Cabinet minister and state BJP president Swatantra Dev Singh.
Khatik is the third among at least three state ministers, including a deputy chief minister, who are said to be unhappy about the functioning of their government — barely four months after it returned to power for the second time in UP.
Earlier this month, deputy CM Brajesh Pathak, who also holds the medicine and health portfolio, had pulled up a senior official expressing displeasure over the transfer of doctors in his department. Public Works Department (PWD) Minister Jitin Prasada has been left red-faced after the removal of his Officer on Special Duty (OSD) and suspension of five others following allegations of irregularities in the transfer and posting of engineers.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath last week assigned senior bureaucrats to look into the charges of irregularities in the transfer of officials in health and PWD departments.
On Wednesday afternoon, Prasada refuted reports about him being upset about the removal and suspension of officials in his ministry. He said there was “no question” of being upset as “everyone knows” the CM’s policy of zero tolerance to corruption, and the government will take concrete steps if there are allegations of irregularities. He also dismissed reports that he visited Delhi Wednesday to meet the BJP high command, adding that he had no such plans.
ThePrint tried to contact Khatik over phone but he could not be reached. However, speaking to the media outside his Meerut residence, he refused to comment, saying “there was nothing” to say.
The state government has played down the reports of Khatik’s resignation. “There is nothing of this sort,” UP’s Additional Chief Secretary (Information) Navneet Sehgal told ThePrint, when asked about Khatik’s resignation.
The PWD problem
On Monday, Prasada’s OSD Anil Kumar Pandey was removed from his post with an official communique from the UP government stating that “serious complaints” had been received against him in connection with alleged corruption in the transfer of engineers and officials in the PWD. Over the past month, 200 engineers and officials have been transferred in the department.
CM Adityanath had on 12 July directed that a committee be formed to look into the complaints of money being paid for the transfers, and a report be submitted to the chief minister’s office. The panel submitted the report on 16 July, indicting the OSD and five other officials of the PWD.
A memorandum issued by special secretary Arun Prakash, secretariat administration department (section-I), about Pandey’s removal, said “serious complaints had been received against Pandey in connection with transfers”.
“Hence, Anil Kumar Pandey is being sent back to the government of India with immediate effect and a vigilance probe and disciplinary action is being recommended against him,” reads the memorandum, accessed by ThePrint.
Pandey, who has previously worked with Prasada when the latter was serving as a Union minister in the UPA government, is considered “close” to him.
A senior government official confirmed that Pandey’s deputation to the UP government was recommended by Prasada after he quit the Congress to join the BJP. “He was soon posted in Lucknow as OSD in May after Prasada took charge,” the official said.
According to highly-placed sources in the government, unlike the controversial transfers in the medicine department, the transfer of officials in the PWD was being viewed as a “government versus department” issue.
“In the medicine department, it was minister versus bureaucrats. In the PWD, it is government versus its own department,” said a senior government official.
Speaking to ThePrint, Ashish Yadav, general secretary of the Uttar Pradesh Engineers’ Association, said the transfers were affected only with the approval of the principal secretary and the minister, and called the alleged irregularities, “clerical mistakes”.
Minister of State Khatik, who is a Dalit leader with a sizeable support base in the Hastinapur-Meerut belt, has complained to Amit Shah about “disrespect towards the Dalit community” among UP government officials in his resignation letter. He has been upset over the Meerut Police not registering an FIR against a constable and the latter’s aide despite his insistence.
According to local police sources, the incident pertains to 4 June, when a constable and his aide apparently had an altercation with two local Dalit traders — Koman and Birju — following a minor road accident.
Khatik had threatened to resign when the SHO of Ganganagar police station in Meerut district refused to lodge an FIR against the constable “without permission from higher authorities”.
The FIR was finally lodged after the Meerut senior superintendent of police (SSP) and district magistrate intervened, but a cross-FIR was also lodged against the two traders on the complaint of the constable. Sources said this further angered the minister.
In his resignation letter, that has surfaced on social media, Khatik has alleged that no action was being taken (by officials) on any of his orders since he was from the Dalit community, and that he was “not being informed about any of the meetings” nor was he “being informed about any of the schemes being run by the department and their functioning”.
“Officials think that the only right of an MoS is on the government vehicle given to him and believe that only this can help fulfil the responsibility of MoS. Despite having contacted the head of department on phone, no information has been provided so far,” he wrote.
Levelling allegations of “corruption” in the Namami Gange scheme and “money transfer” in the recent transfer of officials in the irrigation department, he said that no transfer list was provided to him despite him asking for it through a letter to department officials on 9 July.
“There is massive corruption in the scheme, which is visible on the ground, but when I complain about any official, no action is taken,” he said in the letter dated 19 July.
(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)