Red-faced, Government apologizes for cabinet minister’s ‘misbehavior’
Officer AM Lanker resumes duty *PHE employees slam Choudhary
As employees’ protests over the “misbehavior” by a ruling National Conference minister with a top government officer yesterday escalated for the second consecutive day, the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah ‘intervened’ to see an end to the controversy.
The Chief Engineer Public Health Engineering department Kashmir, AM Lanker, had Thursday resigned from his position in protest after he was “abused” by the cabinet minister ChoudaryRamzaan during a meeting at civil secretariat here. The incident triggered protests from the PHE officials and employees which continued Friday, with demands that Choudhary should apologize for the “shameful behavior.”
Sources said on the directions of the Chief Minister, the Minister of State for PHE, Nazir Ahmad Gurezi, arrived at the PHE Direction Office here where all the PHE employees including engineers had organized a protest sit-in to protest against Choudhary.
Gurezi, according to sources, had a two-hour meeting with representatives of the State Joint Action Committee of All Engineering Wings. “He told the meeting that he has been sent by the Chief Minister and following a long discussion he (Gurezi) apologized on behalf of the government,” Lanker said.
He said following the assurance from Gurezi that such incidents would not take place in future and on the insistence of the Committee members, Lankar resumed his duties following which the PHE employees called off their strike.
Gurezi confirmed to Greater Kashmir that he met the Committee members and Lanker to ensure an end to the ongoing controversy. “I represent the department and it is my duty to ensure that there is a cordial relationship between its employees and the government. Omar Sahib had already rejected his (Lanker’s) resignation and asked him to return to his duty,” Gurezi said.
To a question, the Minister said: “An apology does not belittle anybody and it doesn’t make you small.”
The incident, for the second consecutive day today, evoked condemnation from different quarters.
Attacking National Conference for ‘disrespecting’ officials, the People Democratic Party (PDP) President Mehbooba Mufti said at Jammu that “harassing and abusing government officers is not new for NC ministers.” The AamAadmi Party also condemned the incident.
Meanwhile, the government today handed over the investigations into Ramhal water supply scheme ‘fraud’ in Handwara to IGP Crime who has been asked to submit his report within a fortnight.
“Marsari-Pachkoot Water scheme was supposed to give benefit to 65,000 inhabitants of 35 villages of Ramhal Block of district Kupwara. The PHE department was supposed to spend Rs 5 crore and 87 lakh under this scheme but I am telling you with authority not a single penny was spent for the benefit of the people while the amount was embezzled by the officials of the department,” Ramzan told local news agency CNS.
But the Minister’s claims were refuted by then Executive Engineer PHE Handwara, Muhammad Afzal. He said the matter was formally probed by Superintending Engineer (Hydraulic) and “no embezzlement of funds was reported” from the Ramhal Block.