The Jharkhand government has issued a notice to Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar, a government doctor and a Sahitya Akademi-winning novelist, seeking an explanation on whether his article on the state’s domicile policy, written for The Indian Express, amounted to violation of service rules.
Titled ‘The Adivasi will not dance’, the piece written by Shekhar, a medical officer posted at the additional public health centre in Beldanga block of Pakur district, appeared on May 14 and took a critical look at the domicile policy announced by the ruling BJP-led government in Jharkhand on April 7.
In the notice, Secretary (Personnel and Administrative Reforms) Nidhi Khare said, “Since the Health Department is the controlling authority for medical officials, the same has been asked to inquire into whether the article amounted to violation of service rules. Any action, if required, will be taken on the department’s report.”
After its formation in 2000, Jharkhand had adopted the Bihar Public Servant Conduct Rules 1976. Khare said that the rules were clear that a government servant was not authorised to criticise the government he was working for. “Also, the article had mentioned a few things that were not factually correct,” she said.
Confirming that a notice has been sent, a senior Health Department official said, “The Principal Secretary (Health) has passed the order to send a notice to the person concerned. The notice has been issued. Further action will be taken after we get his reply.”
Principal Secretary (Health) K Vidyasagar was unavailable for comment as he is on leave.
Under the new domicile policy, it was decided that those who have been living in Jharkhand in pursuance of their business or jobs and have acquired immovable assets in the last 30 years, or their children, would be considered local residents of the state.
Also, those having their or their ancestors’ names in the land records in the survey already conducted would be considered ‘domicile’ of the state. The landless would have to be identified by their gram pradhan on the basis of their language, culture and tradition to be considered as permanent residents of the state.
The opposition had claimed the criteria would help “outsiders” get an edge over the state’s local tribals.
When contacted, Shekhar said he was yet to receive the notice.
“I wrote the article as a citizen of India, who has the right to express his opinion. So I expressed my opinion. I did not see myself as an employee of the government of Jharkhand or even as a doctor or a medical officer when I wrote that piece,” said Shekhar, who received the Sahitya Akademi emerging writer award for his novel, The Mysterious Ailment of Rupi Baskey.