Sunil Marandi is treated at sadar hospital in Dumka on Sunday. Picture by Rajesh Kumar Pandey
Dumka, March 25: Five employees of the sole LPG distributor in Dumka were arrested last night for beating up health minister Hemlal Murmu’s son-in-law when he had visited the agency to enquire about the delivery of a cylinder.
Sunil Marandi, a teacher of SP College who lodged an FIR against Kusum Gas Agency late last evening, alleged that he was beaten up by the employees and denied a refilled cylinder for which he had made a booking on March 2.
In his complaint, Marandi, who received serious injuries and was rushed to sadar hospital, mentioned that the employees demanded Rs 500 in addition to the actual cost of the cylinder. After he refused to pay up extra, they dragged him to a separate room and thrashed him with iron rods, Marandi added.
It was only after Marandi’s wife Snehlata Murmu — who teaches at Sido Kanhu Murmu University — raised alarm that Town police station was alerted. Police later arrested Uttam Minj, Arpan Kindo, Sonai Dehri, Nandkishore Tudu and Devlal Pujahar, all natives of Ranchi.
The culprits were today sent to judicial custody after they were produced before the court of the chief judicial magistrate.
The LPG distributor also filed a counter-FIR last night alleging Marandi and five unidentified persons of abusing the employees and snatching Rs 1,470 from the cash box and ransacking the office.
Marandi denied the allegations, saying he had full confidence in the police and the legal system.
“Had I tried to wield any influence as a relative of a minister I wouldn’t have frequented the LPG distributor’s office along with my wife for the last five days just for a refilled cylinder,” Marandi told The Telegraph.
Marandi added doctors at sadar hospital referred him to a better place for treatment.
Dumka superintendent of police Hemant Toppo said investigations were on to establish the truth, adding that the FIR lodged by the LPG distributor appeared “fictitious”.
The district administration, meanwhile, expressed helplessness with regard to penalising the distributor, thanks to the absence of any alternative agency in the sub-capital, which has been reeling under LPG crisis for two years.
“We do have enough grounds to recommend cancellation of the distributor’s licence, but it will deepen the crisis faced by consumers,” sub-divisional officer (civil) Sanjay Kumar Singh told The Telegraph, adding they were approaching oil companies for offering LPG distributorship to other agents.
The SDO said deputy commissioner Prashant Kumar would chair a meeting tomorrow to discuss the problem.
Raju Bhagat, the owner of Kusum Gas Agency, is said to enjoy political patronage, as his wife Vijaya Pahan is a functionary of the district unit of the RJD. Pahan had unsuccessfully contested the last Assembly elections for the Jama seat in 2009.
The LPG crisis in Dumka can be gauged from the fact that the cylinders are being sold on the black market for up to Rs 1,300, which is more than twice the actual rate.