Ranchi, Aug. 23: A rickshaw-puller, having a free meal at a Mukhyamantri Dal-Bhaat Kendra in Daltonganj, died today when the manager of the centre struck him on the head with a spatula for repeatedly asking for vegetables.
The incident took place near Rotary School in Town police station area of Daltonganj, Palamau, around 1pm.
Dilip Kumar Singh (40), who was having lunch at the dal-bhaat centre introduced across the state by former chief minister Arjun Munda to provide meals to the poor at Rs 5 a plate, was allegedly drunk.
Manager Bablu Gupta, who had been appointed by Komal Vikas Sansthan, the NGO running the centre, is absconding. A local resident said Singh had an argument with Gupta during the course of the meal that led to the killing.
According to the eyewitness, “When the rickshaw-puller asked for vegetables for the third time, Gupta said, ‘Paanch rupaya mein teen baar sabji nahin milta (Vegetables cannot be given three times at just Rs 5).’
“To this, Singh replied ‘Tab hotel kahe khol rakhe ho (then why have you opened a hotel?)’. Gupta flew into a fit of rage on hearing the rickshaw-puller’s remarks. He lifted a spatula from the kitchen and went after Singh, hitting him on his temple. The rickshaw-puller died on the spot,” the resident said.
According to sources, after Singh fell down, blood started oozing out from his ears. Seeing this, Gupta and 15 others having lunch at the centre fled.
Later, Singh’s body was taken to Daltonganj Sadar Hospital for post-mortem examination.
Officer-in-charge of Town police station Manoj Thakur confirmed the incident, saying: “A case of murder has been lodged on the statement of the victim’s friend Raju Prasad. Efforts are on to arrest the manager, who is at large.”
According to Thakur, the manager was apparently frustrated over rising prices of vegetables and onions.
“The vegetable curry that was available at the centre today was made of potatoes, onions and grams. When the rickshaw-puller asked for the curry for the third time, the manager lost his cool,” he said.
Palamau deputy commissioner Manoj Kumar said the incident has prompted them to mull changing the agency assigned to run the centre.
“This is an unprecedented incident. There are as many as 20 dal-bhaat centres across the district where 150-200 people turn up for food every day, but never before such an incident has happened anywhere. We will have to take steps to prevent their recurrence in the future,” he said.