The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rules must rule mayor, minister

Two incidents occurred last week where two government officials paid for performing their duty.

The first was when SSKM Hospital’s surgeon-superintendent Debdwaipayan Chattopadhyay asked a patient recommended by mayor Subrata Mukherjee to follow the rules for admission, instead of bowing to the VIP and burying procedures that apply to everyone. Allegedly, he also did not offer the respected mayor a chair when Mukherjee burst into his room with hangers-on, demanding to know why a patient recommended by him had not been given adequate attention.

Mukherjee stopped removing waste from the hospital in retaliation. Chattopadhyay wrote a grovelling letter of apology — was he asked to or did he do it on his own' We would not know.

In the other incident, a traffic sergeant, Rajat Krishan, stopped urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya’s car at Eden Gardens because it was not carrying the mandatory sticker.

Later, Kuldip Singh, deputy commissioner, apologised to the minister for Krishan’s “behaviour”. The day after, Krishan was pulled out of duty from the Eden. (Krishan was back in front of the Eden on Sunday, but the issues the incident raised go far beyond.)

Why the apology' We had asked then. We are asking it again: in both instances. But getting back to the SSKM showdown, where the mayor resumed garbage-clearing services only after Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee spoke to him, there’s one other question waiting to be answered. Did the chief minister do the right thing'

Here is what a chief minister for a quarter of a century, Jyoti Basu, has to say:

“I don’t understand why the chief minister has to intervene in such a small matter. I also wonder why Subrata took up the matter with Buddha when a minister of state (for health, Pratyush Mukherjee) had already spoken to him. It may be that the surgeon-superintendent did not offer a chair to Subrata when he stormed into his room. But why did he enter the super’s room at all'”

Who was in the wrong then: the mayor or the surgeon-superintendent'

Former health minister Partha De says:

“The government should have pulled up the mayor for stopping garbage clearance. As the mayor, he has a major role in the upkeep of the city.”

Who should then have offered the apology: the mayor or the surgeon-superintendent'

Another ex-health minister and former mayor, Prasanta Sur, speaks:

“I fail to understand why the government was so bothered about the super’s alleged misbehaviour towards the mayor. Rather, I want the government to take serious note of the manner in which Mukherjee stormed into the super’s office with a bunch of supporters without notice. Mukherjee — no matter how big he is — had no business disturbing the key man in a hospital. I strongly feel the government should have sought an explanation from the mayor. Instead of Chattopadhyay, Mukherjee should have apologised.”

That may be too much to expect. So far, the mayor has shown no remorse.

Remorse was available promptly and in large measure from the police bosses, though, for sergeant Krishan’s action.

Was Krishan wrong then in stopping the minister’s car'

Former police commissioner Nirupam Som believes:

“Krishan did the right thing by stopping the minister’s car without a sticker. Really, rules are applicable to everybody.”

Were the police bosses right in taking him off the Eden beat'

Another ex-police commissioner, Biren Saha, says:

“Krishan should be rewarded. I don’t understand why he is being blamed for carrying out his superiors’ orders. I also do not subscribe to the views of those who feel Krishan should have used his ‘discretion’ once he saw the red light on the minister’s car.” (Sujoy Chakraborty, the current commissioner, has been on record with such an opinion; Nirupam Som, while upholding the sanctity of rules, also says: “We sometimes flout it a bit if necessity demands”.)

But rules are rules — it is immaterial whether he is a minister or an ordinary person.

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