Friday, 16 September 2016

Middlemen chop honest officer's hand for not clearing fake bills

New Indian Express dated 16/9/2016
BENGALURU: His right forearm swathed in bandages, H R Srinivas is unfazed. “I have been in service for over 25 years and have worked honestly. I have another seven years to go but nothing will stop me from continuing to work without fear,” says the engineer with Kunigal taluk panchayat in Tumakuru, who suffered a brutal attack on Monday night for refusing to clear inflated bills.
Two men on a bike attacked him with a machete, chopping his forearm, when he was on his way to his residence in Magadi from Kunigal.
 Srinivas, who as technical consultant with the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department  oversees implementation of job schemes of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) in Kunigal, was being threatened by the middlemen for not clearing their bills.
Doctors have said he may not feel sensation in three fingers of his right hand. He has been asked to take a month’s rest. “I have been working in Kunigal for the past three years and will continue to work there,” he says.
RDPR Minister H K Patil and other senior officials visited Srinivas. On his family’s insistence, Srinivas has shifted to his sister’s house in RT Nagar for the sake of safety. Minister Patil said, “The department will bear the medical expenses of Srinivas and we are committed to protect the officials of the department. I have also directed police to nab the accused at the earliest.”
Corruption has been rampant in the MGNREGA job schemes. Kunigal MLA Nagarajaiah said the purpose of the scheme has been to provide direct jobs to workers but middlemen continue to
hrive by inflating bills and misappropriating funds.
Accused Channakeshava  alias Keshava and Manjunath, who attacked Srinivas, have been absconding since the incident.
Srinivas H R, a Technical Consultant in the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RDPR) department in Kunigal taluk of Tumakuru district, who was allegedly attacked by some middlemen for not clearing their fake bills, says he was also threatened earlier for working honestly. In an interview with Kiran Parashar K M, the upright official says these days, threats to government officials have become a professional hazard. Excerpts:
Why did they attack you?
We had allotted works to labourers (under MGNREGA) to dig pits to recharge underground water when it rains. A sum of `52,000 for each pit was mentioned. I, along with Kunigal Taluk Panchayat officer Narasimhaiah, visited the place and found that the quality of the work was compromised and the bill had excess amount. I had cut around `10,000 for each work. This had enraged Keshava and Manjunath. They were after me since a week. As my assessment was on the rightpath, I did not bother much. These are not works handed over to middlemens, but to labourers. But middlemen lure the labourers by paying money in advance and make a profit (by inflating bills) later.What exactly happened on September 12?
After I finished my work, I was on my way home near Magadi. Around 7.30 pm, I was close to a farm somewhere near Talakere Post when two men, armed with machetes, attacked me. They aimed for my head, but somehow I managed to escape and was injured on my right hand. I turned my vehicle and rode a few metres before I fell down. People rushed me to a hospital and I regained consciousness only the next day. Doctors told me that I may need at least a month to recover. I feel I was fortunate to miss death by a whisker.
Did you have any inkling that they would attack you?
Though I was threatened thrice on the same day, I had never expected the attack. That day, I had got two phone calls (Srinivas claimed that he has recorded the conversations) and the caller threatened me to sanction the bill. The first call was made around 1.30 pm. Around 3.30 pm, two people (Keshava and Manjunath) entered the office and openly threatened me that they will chop off my hand for reducing the bill. The executive officer and other colleagues were also in office that time. Around 4.30 pm, I received another phone call with the caller threatening me again that he would not spare me at any cost. And they were true!
But what stopped you from filing a complaint?
My executive officer, who had witnessed the entire act, told me to file a complaint with the police. As I had many works to complete, I neglected it and continued working.
Were you ever threatened at work before?
These days, threats to government officials have become a professional hazard, especially when you work in rural areas. Though threats were common, I had never expected this sort of incident. This was the first time that these middlemen went to such an extent. What hurts me most is that it happened in my native place (Kunigal taluk).

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