Assam Cricket Association secretary Bikash Baruah,also a government employee,finds himself at the centre of simultaneous controversies in the two jobs. He is facing a probe for the alleged morphing of a photograph,subsequently published,in which Sourav Gangulys face was apparently replaced with his. And he has been suspended from his government job after it was found that he had been absent for 12 years.
Baruahs suspension as an upper division assistant in the state agriculture directorate has sparked a tussle between two ministers in the Tarun Gogoi government,one of them the president of ACA,the other an official spokesman.
The first of the controversies broke on April 22 when most newspapers in Guwahati carried a photograph showing a man with Baruahs face sharing a dais with actors Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone. It was supposedly an IPL meeting with Baruah attending as ACA secretary. The caption quoted Baruah,who had distributed the photograph himself,as saying that he had asked Khan and Padukone to form an IPL team in the Northeast.
Two dailies,Dainik Agradoot and Niyamiya Barta,were the first to question the genuineness of the photographs. Many sports journalists said they recognised the photograph,but the original,taken in 2011,had Ganguly in Baruahs place. Subsequently,the Freelance Journalists Association filed an FIR against Baruah under sections of the IPC and the Information Technology Act. Baruah applied for and got anticipatory bail from the Gauhati High Court.
This controversy led to the other. Bipul Barman,a sports reporter with NE TV,filed an RTI application with the state agriculture directorate for details about Baruahs job. The directorate replied that Baruah,currently an upper division assistant,had joined in 1975 as a lower division assistant at a salary of Rs 320 per month,and currently draws about Rs 37,000. It emerged that Baruah had been skipping office since he became ACA secretary in 2001,and had never ever taken leave on account of ACA responsibilities either. Until 2006 he used to go to office only once a month to collect his salary in cash,the reply said,and that stopped after salary began to be disbursed through the bank. Baruah,who is due to retire from government service in 2016,also got a a promotion during the years when he skipped office.
On inquiry I found Baruah had not attended office for years,but was regularly drawing salary, Agriculture Minister Nilamoni Sen Deka told The Indian Express. Now,as the controversy broke,he has applied for VRS. The department has rejected his application and suspended him. The suspension came into effect from July 18.
Dekas action against Baruah has upset Public Health Engineering Minister Gautam Roy,also ACA president. He has gone public saying Deka has not done the right thing. Baruah had done good work as ACA secretary, Roy said on Friday.
I will order a thorough inquiry, Deka said. How can one draw salary for years without attending office? He applied for voluntary retirement after I ordered a departmental inquiry,but how can we let him go on VRS?
Baruah could not contacted for comment. An aide said he has engaged a lawyer. He has also petitioned the government,saying he had served in the department without any blot of blemish for 38 years,and it was only recently that the department wrote to the government about departmental proceeding pending against him.