Monday, 30th October 2017

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Jharkhand rural development minister flouts lockdown

600 labourers sent home to districts

By Vijay Deo Jha in Ranchi
  • Published 1.04.20, 12:25 AM
  • Updated 1.04.20, 12:25 AM
  • 2 mins read
Alamgir Alam Telegraph picture

State rural development minister Alamgir Alam found himself in the middle of a storm on Tuesday when it was revealed that he had arranged for the transport of 600 migrant labourers from Ranchi to Pakur, Sahebganj and Koderma in 11 buses on Saturday despite the Centre asking state governments to seal district borders.

Neither were the labourers screened nor was any inventory of their travel history prepared, Opposition leaders alleged.

The state government issued a show cause notice to Ranchi deputy commissioner (DC) Rai Mahimapat Ray on Monday on why the administration allowed 600 people to be transported.

However, a letter issued by the DC’s office to Alam on March 29 afternoon had told the minister that his application had been cancelled in the wake of the order of the Centre. The Telegraph has a copy of the letter.

Highly placed sources in the district administration said the DC also twice informed the minister, including over phone, that the permission had been cancelled. The minister’s aide Ajim Sheikh was also informed, the sources insisted.

They also claimed that the minister acknowledged it and assured that the travel plan stood cancelled.

District administration sources narrated the sequence of events.

On March 28, the minister wrote to the DC’s office requesting permission for the travel of the labourers. Alam furnished details of eight buses meant for transportation. On the same day, Sheikh also sought permission for transportation of 180 labourers to their home in Pakur district. He furnished details of three buses.

On the morning of March 29, magistrate-rank official granted permission to them.

“But in the afternoon we received the order from the central government banning any kind of movement. In the wake of this order, permission was cancelled and they were informed,” said a senior Ranchi district administration source.

“In the wake of the recommendation of minister of rural development and parliamentary affairs the permission was granted through letter no 951. But in the wake of the letter issued by the Union home secretary 40-3/2020 DM-1(A); the permission has been denied with immediate effect,” the cancellation letter read.

Alam’s defence

Alam said he had helped the labourers on humanitarian grounds.

“They were stranded and there was no provision for their stay in Ranchi and they were forced to stay on the road as their employers had deserted them.

“Now they have been accommodated at Polytechnic building in Pakur and proper arrangements have been made for them.

“I arranged food for them for a couple of days. They could have posed high risk if they were left loitering on the road hence on humanitarian grounds their transportation was arranged. Some people are unnecessarily politicising the issue,” said minister.

He parried a question on whether he had approached either chief minister Hemant Soren or the Ranchi district administration to arrange for their food and lodging.

The BJP on Tuesday wrote to governor Droupadi Murmu, demanding action against the minister.

“On one hand the chief minister is appealing to people to respect the lockdown and on the other hand his cabinet colleague is misusing his power to violate the lockdown,” said state BJP president Deepak Prakash.

“He has posed risk on the public health and chief minister must sack him. We demand an FIR against him. The situation is pathetic. Foreigners who could be potential carriers of this virus are given shelter at religious places but the state police and administration have no idea.”