Odisha sarpanch alleges PDS corruption, fined Rs 1 lakh for organising protest
A sarpanch in Odisha has been asked to deposit Rs 1 lakh by the local block development officer over allegations that he violated Covid-19 regulations by organising a congregation of over 150 people.
Sarpanch Malab Sahu of Gaurenmunda gram panchayat under Gaisilet block of Bargarh district was asked by block development officer Niranjan Sa to deposit the penalty within 3 days for allegedly organising a congregation of 150 villagers on the premises of the block office on Monday.
The sarpanch had laid siege to the BDO office on Monday alleging black-marketing of kerosene to be distributed through the public distribution system (PDS). The BDO said the sarpanch had not taken prior permission to hold such a big congregation of people.
“You had not taken any prior permission to allow such congregation of people, as any congregation by the general public beyond 10 persons at a place at any period of time is prohibited for containing the spread of the Covid-19 disease. Hence you are fined Rs 1 lakh for violating regulation 4C of the Odisha Covid-19 regulation,” said the letter issued by the BDO to the sarpanch.
The BDO alleged that the sarpanch’s role in organizing the congregation to intimidate block officials was evident from CCTV footage of the block office as well as the video clips shared by the staff and their testimony. During the congregation the BDO was on a field visit.
As per Covid-19 guidelines, any congregation by the general public involving 10 or more people at a place at any period of time is prohibited.
Incidentally, the state government is today moving a bill in the assembly to amend section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 to increase the punishment of imprisonment up to 2 years or with a fine which may extend up to Rs 1 lakh or with both for non-compliance of the pandemic guidelines.
The action against the sarpanch comes just months after the government enlisted their support for managing the quarantine centres in villages and giving them the status of district collectors for enforcing the Covid-19 guidelines.