Babulal Soren amuses himself in his hot seat at the district transport office in Jamshedpur on Wednesday. (Bhola Prasad)
The state may well be under President’s Rule, but a former minister’s son is the ruler as far as a curtsying East Singhbhum is concerned.
The district transport office in Jamshedpur screamed discrimination on Wednesday when Babulal Soren — the son of former transport minister Champai Soren — was allowed a seat inside, his coterie of two friends and three gun-toting guards in tow, while the common man queued up in scorching heat.
The 35-year-old contractor — who had come for the registration of his earthmover — was not just escorted into the office, but also offered a cup of tea and granted access to computers that contain transport data of an entire district.
Witnesses, who watched Babulal being buttered up, said he stayed at the transport office for some 15 minutes and spent most of his time “playfully punching computer keys or scrolling the screen”.
City-based advocate Uday Shanker Singh, who had also come to the transport office for his four-wheeler driving licence, said the DTO was not in his chamber.
“So, he (Babulal) breezed into the office where all documentation work is done. He sat right next to computer operator Pankaj Kumar Sinha and sipped tea. Done with the cup, he turned to the computer and played with the mouse, scrolling the screen. This is unacceptable. How can an outsider be allowed access to confidential data?” the lawyer said.
Babulal’s father Champai is a JMM MLA from Seraikela and was the transport minister till the state was put under President’s Rule in January this year.
“Everybody knows that he is the former transport minister’s son. We cannot ask him to get his work done by standing in the queue. He came inside and we gave him a chair,” said a transport office employeee, preferring anonymity.
When The Telegraph tried to jolt his conscience asking how he could enjoy the cool comforts of an office when others sweated in the sun to get their work done, Babulal was unfazed.
“I came to the office after a long time. I met some old staff (who know me) and exchanged greetings. They offered me a seat and tea. I asked my bodyguards to wait in the corridor,” he said, adding he had done nothing to hinder office work or influence anyone.
Called on his phone, district transport officer (DTO) George Kumar, who holds dual charge of Seraikela-Kharsawan, said he was not in Jamshedpur and in the neighbouring district. “I will speak to my staff first to ascertain what exactly happened,” he said.
Later, Kumar defended the discrimination to say that the former minister’s son was only given a seat and that did not disrupt work. He also played down Babulal’s access to computer, saying: “He cannot alter any data. The computers are protected.”
However, deputy commissioner Himani Pande said she would order an inquiry and take disciplinary action against any staff found guilty of appeasement.
“We have been getting complaints of outsiders entering the DTO’s office. We ordered suspension of an employee a few days back on the same ground. I will look into this matter too,” she promised.
Should outsiders be allowed access to government data?