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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Squats as ‘punishment’: Rural official moves human rights panel against IAS officer

According to GSHRC officials in Gandhinagar, Bhikhabhai Ismailbhai Chadi, an extension officer at Bhiloda Taluka Panchayat office in Aravalli, had moved a petition claiming that during a video-conference meeting on January 11, 2021, he was made to do squats, holding his ears.

Written by Vaibhav Jha | Ahmedabad |
March 23, 2021 4:31:03 am
When contacted, ACS Rakesh confirmed that a report on the matter would be sent to the GSHRC soon.

The Gujarat State Human Rights Commission (GSHRC) has initiated an inquiry after a 49-year-old extension officer (Vistaran Adhikari) with a taluka panchayat in Aravalli submitted a complaint alleging that an IAS officer made him do squats, holding his ears, as “punishment” during a video conference attended by over 50 officials.

According to GSHRC officials in Gandhinagar, Bhikhabhai Ismailbhai Chadi, an extension officer at Bhiloda Taluka Panchayat office in Aravalli, had moved a petition claiming that during a video-conference meeting on January 11, 2021, he was made to do squats, holding his ears (‘Uthak Baithak’; a form of punishment) by Aravalli District Development Officer and IAS officer Anil Dhameliya.

In a letter addressed to GSHRC chairperson Justice Ravi Tripathi on March 3, Bhikhabhai said he was posted as an extension officer in the gram panchayat department on December 1, 2020 and his job included demarcation of land in villages under village panchayat for allocation of house plots in accordance with the Prime Minister Housing Scheme and other state-run schemes for beneficiaries and verifying the documents on behalf of gram panchayat and sending them to Mamlatdar office.

“As many villages under Bhiloda taluka are inhabited by tribal population and the people build their houses within the farmlands, there was no application sent to the gram panchayat office for land demarcation and plot allocation for houses. On January 11 this year, the DDO held a video-conference meeting between 4 pm and 5 pm to seek details of applicants regarding land demarcation in each of the villages under Aravalli. When my turn came, I told him that the villages under Bhiloda taluka are 100 per cent tribal inhabited and there is no pasture land, panchayat land or unregistered land plot which can be demarcated. However, listening to this, the DDO asked me to do uthak baithak infront of all the officials. Since I am a junior officer, I complied by the order given by my senior. The officer has gone beyond the law to insult and humiliate a junior official. I was not sent any showcause notice as per the procedure mentioned for disciplinary action against government officials (sic),” said Bhikhabhai in his petition.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Bhikhabhai said, “I have been a patwari since 1992 and after 28 years of service, I was recently given a promotion and posted as an extension officer on December 1 last year. I could not record the insult meted out to me [during the video-conference] but I have witnesses to prove my case. More than 50 staffers, including Taluka Development Officers (TPOs), extension officers, computer operators of all six tehsils of Aravalli attended the meet.”

Taking cognizance of Bhikhabhai’s complaint, GSHRC registrar K I Kachhia asked for an inquiry report from Amrendra Kumar Rakesh, additional chief secretary to the Gujarat government, Panchayats, Rural Housing & Rural Development Department, Gandhinagar and Aravalli collector Amrutesh Aurangabadkar seeking a report within 15 days. An official with the GSHRC confirmed to The Indian Express that the authorities concerned had taken cognizance of the complaint.

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DDO Anil Dhameliya said, “Since the GSHRC has taken cognizance of the complaint against me and set a competent authority to probe the allegations, it would not be wise of me to comment during an ongoing investigation.”

When contacted, ACS Rakesh confirmed that a report on the matter would be sent to the GSHRC soon.

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