Chief Engineer PHE resigns in protest*Mehbooba, Sajad, QayoomWani slam minister
In a major embarrassment to the Omar Abdullah-led government, the Chief Engineer Public Health Engineering department Kashmir, A M Lanker, Thursday resigned in protest after the senior National Conference minister ChoudaryRamzaan “abused” him at a meeting at Civil Secretariat here. The Government, however, didn’t accept his resignation.
Lanker was “ill-treated” by the Minister for Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution (CA&PD) ChoudaryRamzaan in presence of the Minister for PHE, Sham Lal Sharma and administrative head of the PHE Department, PawanKotwal, during the meeting this morning. He tendered his resignation immediately after the episode that evoked widespread condemnation.
In his one-page resignation letter send to Kotwal, Lanker wrote: “As you are aware there was a gross provocative language on part of the Minister for Food and Supplies and Transport during the course of the meeting in the office chamber of PHE Minister, therefore in protest, I submit my resignation from the Government services in view of the un-bearing behavior with me (and) you are requested to make alternative arrangements for running the department.”
The meeting was called to review the performance of the PHE department Handwara—the home constituency of Ramzaan.
Talking to Greater Kashmir, Lanker termed the incident as unfortunate. “He (Minister) should not have done this. He used abusive language and leveled personal attacks on me. The Minister was very aggressive from the beginning of the meeting. There was no reason for him to turn so aggressive. The possible reason for his behavior was that he wanted that the Executive Engineer PHE of his constituency, who is an honest person and has taken on the local mafia there, to be transferred,” Lanker said.
He said the Minister while taking the review of the water schemes in his constituency raised “certain” queries. Though, he said, the senior PHE officials responded to his queries in detail, the Minister termed their response as a “lie”.
“Then he turned towards me and used very abusive and bad language. I am a responsible official and will stand by my juniors who are doing good work in any situation,” Lanker said.
This is second such incident that has left the Omar Government red-faced. Earlier this year, minister for Higher Education Muhammad Akbar Lone slapped a youth at a rally in north Kashmir, triggering sharp criticism.
Sources said following the incident, the Chief Engineer, who joined the department in 2012, left the meeting and straight away drove to his office at Raj Bagh here.
“He was very disturbed, inconsolable and his eyes were full of tears,” they said.
They said within minutes of his reaching the office, he faxed his resignation to the Commissioner/Secretary PHE and left for home.
The Government has however not accepted his resignation and asked him to continue at his position. “I am directed to refer to your resignation letter which has been examined at this end and that it has not been accepted,” the Under Secretary PHE Shiraz Ahmad Chauhan has communicated to Lanker. “Therefore you are advised to continue to work as Chief Engineer, PHE Department Kashmir.”
The incident evoked sharp reaction from the engineering wings of the Government, including engineers from R&B department.
In a statement issued today, the State Joint Action Committee of all engineering wings has called for pen-down strike on Friday.
“There will be no office work but the services will not get affected,” the statement read.
The Committee has demanded resignation of the Minister concerned. There were protests taken out against the Minister by the employees outside the office of the Chief Engineer PHE at Raj Bagh.
QAYOOM WANI, MEHBOOBA, SAJAD SLAM MINISTER
Chairman Employees Joint Action Committee Abdul QayoomWani condemned the “misbehavior” by the Minister with the Chief Engineer.
“He (CE) is an honest an upright official and we appeal to him to take back his resignation,” he said.
Wani said the Government employees are not the slaves of politicians but servants of people.
Slamming National Conference minister Choudhary Muhammad Ramzan for “abusing” the government officer A M Lankar in a meeting here, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti has said “this is a new low in the working of Omar Abdullah-led government in the state.”
In a statement, she said “by resorting to such hooliganism and highhandedness time and again, the National Conference politicians are showcasing their real face.”
“NC leadership has always employed such inhuman acts and it is not something new. They (NC politicians) are frustrated and to hide their failures they now want to force the officers to resort to illegal methods to accommodate the ruling party agents,” she said.
Mehbooba said the assault on the officer becomes even more serious as the minister in-charge of his department, too, was reportedly present in the meeting and he could not protect his own Head of the department. “Such an assault on any government official or for that matter any citizen is unacceptable but in the case of the modest and upright officer of prone integrity like A M Lanker, it becomes even more shocking,” she said.
Mehbooba said the ministers in the present government have “mostly come into adverse notice for their acts of omission and commission, scams and scandals and misconduct with the officials and ordinary people and today’s incident has rightly sent shockwaves among the administration.”
Condemning the incident, Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Conference chairman Sajjad Lone said blatant misuse of government machinery has become a norm in entire Jammu and Kashmir and especially in Kupwara district.
In a statement, he said, “We salute the chief engineer PHE Muzaffar Lanker who showed guts to react when his hounour was at stake. The incident is just the tip of the iceberg as blatant misuse of government machinery has become a norm in Kashmir and especially in Kupwara district.”
Saluting the courage of Lanker, he said, “The story of PHE works in Handwara is a unique case of cronyism. There is rampant interference by the ruling party and select employees have been placed to literally plunder the department under pressure from the local MLA who is also a minister.”
The PC chief said that “grave provocative language” used by CAPD Minister during the meeting forced the senior engineer to submit resignation and it is a shame on the government. “It is high time for Omar Abdullah government to take serious action against the erring minister to not further erode the credibility of the Chair that he is occupying.”
Highlighting the problems faced by the people in Handwara and Kupwara, Lone said the ration in the district is given to only those people who are identified by Halqa presidents of the ruling National Conference, while the rest are left to fend for themselves. “Winning and losing elections are part of the political process but surpassing all lows to desperately cling on and in the process inflicting the meanest cruelty on to poor hapless people is too much,” he added.