Mamata's 'whip' remark to security men draws whiplash

Kolkata, Feb 9 (IANS) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's outburst at her security personnel in full public glare has triggered animated debates and discussions across the state.

While television channels have been repeatedly airing the footage of the chief minister screaming at the Special Branch personnel guarding her round the clock, the incident has also raised issues like the dignity of government servants, employer-employee relations and human rights violations.

"The chief minister needs some rest. She is too fatigued. Since taking over the reins of the state in 2011, she has tried to do everything herself. All her ministers are only on paper. She takes all the decisions and announces them herself. She runs to districts even for projects for which the presence of a minister would have sufficed," said Congress leader Arunava Ghosh.

"She is the first and last word in the party. She takes decisions on every matter. All this is making her restless," Ghosh added.

Banerjee lost her cool on a trip to the Kolkata International Book Fair Wednesday night when she had to wait for her car when she came out of the venue.

"Where is my car? Why is it not coming? Apnader dhore chabkano uchit, chabkano uchit apnader dhore (You all should be whipped)," an impatient Banerjee shouted at policemen in security detail.

At the wrong end of Banerjee's invective was Sergeant Kusum Kumar Dwivedi, a much-decorated Special Branch officer who has been part of Banerjee's inner security circle for several years.

Banerjee had presented the Seva Medal to Dwivedi December last for her performance.

The footage of her outburst aired by the television channels triggered dismay, shock and protest in the society at large.

Retired Indian Police Service officer Sandhi Mukherjee said: "The employees in the state have earned their rights through a series of movements. They all have dignity. Such behaviour from the state's chief executive is totally unacceptable."

Writer Suchitra Bhattacharya said: "She is becoming intolerant. She seems to be under a lot of pressure. She is surrounded by several problems. But such behaviour does not behove a person occupying such a post."

"This is the language of power. Power has gone to her head," said journalist-turned-social activist Bolan Gangopadhyay.

"The chief minister should learn to respect her subordinates. Every person, irrespective of the post he occupies or the work he does, has self-respect and dignity. One cannot treat even a servant like this. The people she abused were all government staff," said a state government officer.

However, Trinamool Congress Lok Sabha member and former union minister Saugata Roy sang a different tune.

"This is a minor issue. The media is unnecessarily blowing it up. They are making mountains of molehills. (Former state chief minister) Jyoti Basu had once called opposition leaders scoundrels. Nobody reported it then," said Roy.

Roy himself had grabbed the spotlight recently for using a Bengali slang implying that the Communist Party of India-Marxist was finished in the state.

A civil rights group thought otherwise and moved the West Bengal Human Rights Commission, claiming that Banerjee's behaviour has "violated human rights" of police personnel engaged in providing security to the chief minister.

The complaint, faxed and e-mailed to the panel, urged it to ensure protection of human rights of police personnel "humiliated" by the chief minister and of "policemen in general".

(Sirshendu Panth can be contacted at s.panth@ians.in)

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