Punjab asks teachers to check smuggling of Teacher’s, withdraws orders hours later
Desperate times call for desperate measures. The Punjab government, which has been rattled by recurring incidents of liquor smuggling and losses in excise collection, deputed school teachers at distilleries to keep a check on the supply. Hours later, it withdrew the orders after media reports sparked an outrage.
It all began when the Gurdaspur district administration on Wednesday asked 24 teachers to keep an eye on smuggling of popular brands such as Rass Bhari, Rano Sofi, Asli Mota Santra and Punjab King.
The Gurdaspur deputy commissioner’s office posted the teachers outside four distilleries owned by prominent liquor barons.
The orders were issued by the assistant commissioner (general) Raman Kochar, on behalf of deputy commissioner Mohammad Ishfaq.
But the district administration revoked its decision on Thursday afternoon after facing flak for the decision. Kochar, in his order on behalf of the DC, said, “Teachers’ duties at liquor factories have been cancelled with immediate effect.”
With schools closed in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, teachers are already stretched thin with conducting online classes, distributing mid-day meals, books, facilitating online admissions, screening migrant labourers at bus stops and railway stations and checking at inter-state borders.
WAS SAFEGUARDING REVENUE: DC
The earlier order said that in view of the Covid-19 crisis, teachers have been deployed at liquor factories as executive magistrates and will submit their report to the Batala tehsildar daily.
“In case of negligence, a first information report (FIR) under Section 188 (disobeying a public servant’s order) of the Indian Penal Code will be registered against them,” the order had said.
Backing the earlier decision, Ishfaq said, “There’s nothing wrong in using the services of teachers. We deployed teachers at liquor factories to utilise manpower. The state government has declared each government employee an executive magistrate.”
“The decision was taken to curb liquor smuggling. We are only trying to safeguard the government’s revenue,” said Ishfaq, a lateral entry Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer who was formerly an engineer in public health and has no experience in civil administration.
ORDER RAISES EYEBROWS
Meanwhile, the deputy commissioner of another district in Punjab, requesting anonymity, said, “There is no way I would allow this in my district. It is not for teachers to keep an eye on the supply of alcohol.”
Democratic Teachers’ Front (DTF) president Davinder Singh Punia said, “This is against the dignity of teachers. We demanded the immediate revocation of this order and strict action against officials who assigned these duties. Has the Punjab government fallen on such hard times that they are using teachers to check liquor smuggling?”
When contacted, state education minister Vijay Inder Singla said, “The deputy commissioner has taken this decision at his own level. I have told the secretary to speak to him.”