An independent MLA allegedly manhandled a senior state government employee, triggering a flash strike in the state secretariat Tuesday.
Omprakash Babaroa Kadu alias Bacchu Kadu, who represents the Achalpur assembly constituency, was accused of beating up and abusing General Administration Department Deputy Secretary Bhaurao Gavit.
According to office bearers of the Maharashtra State Mantralaya Officers Organisation, which spearheaded the subsequent flash strike, the incident took place in Gavit’s office on Mantralaya’s second floor around 1.45 pm.
While Kadu later denied that he had manhandled the employee, he appeared to have been isolated. Responding to the organisation’s strike call, the staffers across departments in the Mantralaya went on a pendown strike assembling in the secretariat’s courtyard, where they raised slogans against Kadu and demanded his suspension.
Organisation president R K Dhanawade, who later headed a delegation that met the chief minister on the issue, recounted that Kadu had similarly manhandled government employees twice in the past. “He is a habitual offender and needs to be acted against severely,” Dhanawade said.
The staffers appeared to have further toughened their stance with the political establishment. The strikers declared that the staffers would continue with the protest and would not return to work unless an action was initiated against Kadu.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis heads the General Administration Department, whose administrative head is the state’s chief secretary.
Senior state minister Eknath Khadse eventually announced on the floor of the Legislative Assembly that the chief secretary’s office had been told to conduct a probe into the incident and an appropriate action would be initiated in the matter. He dubbed the entire episode as “unfortunate”.
Just as Kadu defended his action, he did not appear to have the backing of senior cabinet ministers and even senior Opposition leaders who confirmed in private discussions that “assault of a government employee cannot be justified regardless of circumstances”.
The BJP government was put in a tight corner with the flash strike affecting work at the Mantralaya and even casting a shadow on the official business of the ongoing budget session of the state legislature. Apparently, the entire episode unfolded due to a dispute over a government staff quarter allotted to a clerk, Ashok Jadhav, who works with the Public Works Department in Mantralaya.
Gavit told The Indian Express that a complaint had been received that Jadhav had not given up possession of the government staff quarter allotted to him in Bandra’s Government Colony even after being allotted an ownership house in Virar under the chief minister’s quota in 2011 in contravention of norms. Acting on the complaint, Gavit had moved a proposal to the chief minister for getting the staff quarter vacated.
After his request for grant of a year’s extension for continued possession of the staff quarter was turned down by Gavit and his seniors in the state administration on legal grounds, Jadhav pleaded his case with Kadu.
“His wife is unwell and all he was seeking was a year’s extension. I can cite several instances where undue government accommodations have been provided to senior government employees,” Kadu told The Indian Express, maintaining that Jadhav was neither a relative nor someone who hailed from his constituency.
“He (Jadhav) showed me documents and papers that convinced me that his grievance was genuine,” Kadu said.
Gavit, however, maintained that he had acted as per norms. “There was a complaint and the factual position was conveyed to the administration,” he said.
On Tuesday, Kadu accompanied Jadhav to Gavit’s office, and confronted him. “I was asking him on why he had entered negative remarks on the file but he began behaving rudely. I was justified in venting my ire. But allegations that I manhandled the employee is baseless,” Kadu said.
But Gavit and the representatives of the organisation insisted that he had indeed been beaten up. “He had to be rushed to the St George Hospital near CST as his blood pressure had shot up on account of manhandling,” said organisation’s deputy president Satish Jondhale.
At the time of filing this report, the Marine Drive police had recorded Gavit’s statement. Sources said an FIR will be filed against the MLA in the matter.
Dhanawade, however, said during their meeting with Fadnavis, the organisation has demanded that a case under the stringent Prevention of Atrocities Act be run against the MLA. Gavit hails from a backward caste. “We also demanded that the legislature adopt a resolution for Kadu’s suspension for his excesses,” Dhanawade said.
Kadu said he had not vented his ire at the employee due to caste considerations. He also lashed out at the Mantralaya staffers for striking work.
Meanwhile, the latest skirmish between the politician and the administration has rekindled the demand for a legislation against assualt or attacks on government employees.
“The legislation has been put on a backburner for two years. We have requested the CM to take it up,” Dhanawade said.
Late evening, the Marine Drive police registered an FIR against Kadu charging him for intentional insult and provocation for breaking public peace, and voluntarily causing hurt to deter a public servant from discharging his duty under IPC sections 332, 323, 334, and 504.