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Minister on crusade, alone

Social welfare minister Parveen Amanullah is confident enough to embark on any crusade all alone even if it is against don-turned-MLA Anant Singh.

On Friday, she walked down to Singh’s new hotel Buddha Heritage in Patliputra, around 200m from her official residence at plot number 133 of Patliputra Colony, without any security guard. She did not take her official car either. When a security guard in plain clothes tried to sneak into her entourage comprising legal adviser Amol Kumar and a few aides, the minister asked him to go back.

“I said no security guard, I mean it. Please go back,” said Amanullah.

Her mission: to check if the alleged encroachment on an open space in front of the hotel had been removed. Amanullah had on Tuesday night lodged a complaint with Pataliputra Co-operative Housing Society — the owner of the land — against Singh for allegedly using the space for parking vehicles of the hotel.

On Thursday, she had said she would visit the spot on Friday to see if the encroachment had been removed.

While walking to the hotel, Amanullah said: “I have written to the society, complaining about the hotel. I have asked them to remove the barricade and to vacate the space. How can people illegally encroach upon land where children used to play?”

An aide asked her: “Madam, should we ask for a car for the return journey?”

“Why would I need a car?” she replied. “I can walk back.”

Amanullah covered the distance to the hotel in eight minutes, arriving sharp 10.15am. What she saw did not please the first woman minister from the minority community in Bihar.

“Look, they have removed the barricade but the debris and construction material are still strewn all around,” she said. “It is evident that they have encroached on the plot.”

After conducting a recce of the parking space, Amanullah added: “This place used to be a road but they have converted it into a parking lot. There is a heap of stone chips here and a JCB machine. What do you think is going on here?”

She also demanded to be informed about the whereabouts of the secretary of Pataliputra Co-operative Housing Society, A.K. Sinha, whom Amanullah had asked to meet her at the spot.

One of her aides told her: “Madam, I spoke to him on the phone. He told me that he was in his office and had sent a member. He does not want to come here.”

“Let him sit in his office for the rest of his life,” she said. “Why are these people so scared?”

Fear is, of course, anathema to Amanullah, the daughter of former parliamentarian and diplomat Syed Shahabuddin, and herself once at the forefront of the RTI movement as the convener of Bihar Right to Information Manch.

Asked if she was daunted by the reputation of Anant Singh, once a notorious don in Mokama, Amanullah said: “I have always been like this. I can’t tolerate illegal and unjust activity.

“I am not scared of anyone. Why should I fear? I have the Constitution, laws, the government machinery and the administration with me. ”

At the hotel, she was true to her discourse. When she arrived, the employees and the guests started peeping out. A management official, Anwar, came out to meet her.

“Why have you not removed the debris and the construction material from the spot? The society has sent you notice to clear everything. This space does not belong to you. Why are you using it as a parking space? When will you remove everything? If you don’t, I shall lodge an FIR against the hotel management,” said the minister.

Anwar said: “We shall remove everything by 6pm.”

“Okay,” said Amanullah. “I shall wait till 6pm. If everything is not cleared from this space by then, I shall lodge an FIR tomorrow (Saturday). This was a grassy plot but you have put cement and brick over here. I want you to remove the bricks so that children can play here. This space is for the residents of the co-operative society, not for parking cars of your hotel.”

Amanullah had also planned to enter the hotel but decided not to when her legal adviser told her not to. Having made her point, the minister started for home at 10.22am.

After reaching her official residence at 10.37am, she said: “I shall take this issue to its logical conclusion. If the encroachment is not removed by 6pm, I shall file a case under Bihar Public Land Encroachment Act.”

It seems Amanullah has quite a challenge on her hands. When The Telegraph visited the spot in front of hotel Buddha Heritage at 6pm, the bricks and the JCB machine were there as it is. Asked what she would do next, Amanullah said she would lodge an FIR on Saturday.

MLA Anant Singh was unavailable for comment.