A Japanese official was flayed after he took a piggyback ride through a large puddle during a visit to a town devastated by a deadly storm, leading to comparisons to a similar faux pas by Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
Shunsuke Mutai, the 60-year-old vice minister for reconstruction, was seen in TV footage riding on a younger colleague’s back on September 1 while visiting Iwaizumi town, where more than 20 people were killed by Typhoon Lionrock. He was leading a government damage assessment team.
“I’ll be in trouble if this is caught on camera,” Mutai was heard saying in footage aired by private broadcaster TBS after being put down. Clad in a blue work uniform and black shoes, he was apparently trying to avoid getting his feet wet. Most other officials wore long rubber boots.
The sight triggered sharp criticism on social media, and Mutai was accused of not taking his job seriously. Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s top government spokesman, described Mutai’s conduct as “inappropriate” and said he should have carried a pair of boots.
Reconstruction minister Masahiro Imamura, who is Mtai’s boss, apologised to local residents over the weekend. “When I heard the story, I said what on earth was he doing,” Imamura said.
Jun Matsumoto, state minister for disaster management, said on Tuesday that as Mutai’s supervisor he was “sorry”, and stressed his conduct was “inappropriate as it lacked consideration for people and areas hit by the disaster”.
Mutai, a member of parliament, too has said he “deeply regrets” his behaviour.
Last month, chief minister Chouhan was the butt of jokes after photos emerged on social media of him being carried by two policemen through ankle-deep muddy water while inspecting the flood-hit Panna area.
The policemen carried Chouhan in their arms across a flooded stream in Samtana village. Chouhan was seen in another widely shared photo walking barefoot in muddy water while his sneakers were carried by an official.
Unlike in Japan, there was no apology from any official of the Madhya Pradesh government.
(With inputs from agencies)