Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, in a string of tweets on Sunday, said he had ordered the immediate removal of Surajgarh District Collector for slapping a person who was out to buy medicines amid the COVID-19 lockdown.
In a video that has by now gone viral on social media, District Collector Ranbir Sharma is seen upbraiding and slapping a man who attempts to show him a piece of paper and explain why he was out during the lockdown. The IAS officer then throws the man’s phone on the road and asks is heard telling the accompanying policemen: “Maaro isse” (beat him up).
किसी भी अधिकारी का शासकीय जीवन में इस तरह का आचरण स्वीकार्य नहीं है।
इस घटना से क्षुब्ध हूँ। मैं नवयुवक व उनके परिजनों से खेद व्यक्त करता हूँ।
— Bhupesh Baghel (@bhupeshbaghel) May 23, 2021
“A case of misbehaviour towards a young man by Surajpur Collector Ranbir Sharma has come to my notice via social media. It is very sad and condemnable,” tweeted the Chief Minster. “In Chhattisgarh, no such act will be tolerated at all. Instructions have been given to remove Collector Ranbir Sharma with immediate effect.”
Soon after the Chief Minister’s directive, the state government transferred Mr Sharma to the Mantralaya (secretariat) in Nava Raipur. He has been replaced by the CEO of Raipur Zila Panchayat, Gaurav Kumar Singh.
“Misbehaviour by an official is unacceptable. I am upset at this incident. I apologise to the youth and his family,” the Chief Minister said in a tweet in Hindi.
The Collector’s act drew sharp criticism on social media platforms with people demanding his removal and registration of an FIR against him. The Collector later apologised for his act.
“…a video is viral on the social media in which I am shown slapping a man who was out during lockdown. I sincerely apologise. I never had any intention to disrespect or belittle the person in the video,” Mr Sharma said.
The Indian Administrative Service officers association has strongly condemned the District Collector’s actions.
“It is unacceptable and against the basic tenets of the service and civility. Civil servants must have empathy and provide a healing touch to society at all times, more so in these difficult times,” the IAS Association posted on Twitter.