Public outcry as family enters Sikkim without mandatory formalities; CM orders in-depth investigation

Public outcry as family enters Sikkim without mandatory formalities; CM orders in-depth investigation

Gangtok, July 8: In Sikkim’s latest example of the bureaucracy vs. the public, an entry of five individuals reportedly in connection with a powerful figure in governance has Sikkimese citizens hotly debating whether this is a case of power misused or blatant carelessness of officials.

On July 1, it came to light that a family of five had entered the state via the Melli Check Post to attend a funeral in Jorethang, despite strict rules kept in place regarding screening of visitors. The family of 5 were able to enter Sikkim notwithstanding the guidelines enforced by the State and Centre Government, violating the rules of facility quarantine and precaution of the COVID-19.

The family of 5 included Gauri Shanker Gupta and four of his family members, including a child, are accused of having crossed the State’s borders with no form of permit, registration, and no time in a facility quarantine.

It would have been a clear cut case of violation of law and authority, except things got dicey when the public realized that the five are allegedly relatives of Sikkim’s Chief Secretary S.C. Gupta, who on Thursday issued a press release stating:

“Nothing can be farther from the truth as the Chief Secretary or his family has no relatives either in Sikkim or Haryana or Jharkhand or within the radius of 1000 km of Sikkim, for that matter. The post is thus deliberately and mischievously designed to spread misinformation among gullible Facebook users who have seen and already shared it without knowing or verifying the truth. This spread of canard with an ulterior motive can only be seen as a feeble attempt to undermine the State’s achievements and the tireless efforts in handling the Covid-19 situation most sensitively and humanely so far.”

The press release also noted, “The Crime Branch of Sikkim Police has already been directed to investigate the matter and bring to book the persons responsible for spreading the fake news most irresponsibly and trying to create panic and mistrust among the Sikkimese people.”

Since then, it has been informed that the family has been placed in facility quarantine at SICB, Karfectar, their swab samples have been collected and a case filed against them under the provisions of Sections 188, 269, and 270 of IPC and the Disaster Management Act, 2005 at Jorethang Police Station and strict action will be levied upon them.

Following this, the Chief Minister P.S. Tamang chaired a meeting on July 3 giving Gupta orders to carry out an in-depth investigation regarding the family’s entry with the Sikkim Police Director General of Police, A. Shanker Rao, also ordering the report to be submitted by Friday.

District Collector South, Ragul K. has been directed to investigate as to how the family were able to enter the state, as well as Secretary (Co-ordination) of Home Department, Rinzing Bhutia being sent to visit Jorethang, Melli and Namchi to make a comprehensive report on the matter.

Many political figures of the State have made their stand on the incident clear, like Passang Sherpa, Political and Social Activist and the Convenor of Iam371F who has said that the entry of the family had to be “blessed” by some influential people in the Government and that only due to this is the names of top bureaucrats and government officials included in the rumours among people, and to get to the bottom of the truth an independent inquiry commission is a must.

Sikkim Republican Party’s President K.B. Rai has also asked as to whether the illegal entrants will be booked for the Attempt to Murder under IPC section 307, as stated by the Chief Minister P.S. Tamang during a press meet of May 6. Rai also questioned to why Sushmita Subba and her family were denied entry but why is that this incident showing that top-level officials could be directing the lower-level officials at the check post to allow entry or to look the other way.

Soon after, two constables were suspended, a move heavily criticised by the public, several political figures, and activists, who said that the two constables were merely scapegoats to hide or conceal a bigger ploy that was in place.

Social activists like Navin Kiran, who during a live session was quoted saying that the two constables were merely doing their job while risking their health. Further, he asked: While the people who entered the state illegally were let go, why were the two police constables who were just following the orders of the higher-ups punished so?

On July 3, after a viral post by Facebook handle called ‘Mothers Sikkim’ which highlighted the suspension of the two constables as an incident of nepotism and on Thursday the Office of the Chief Minister issued a press release citing that departmental inquiry would be conducted over alleged discrepancy and breach.

After this, on July 4, the Director Inspector General of Police (DIG), Pravin Gurung conducted a press meet to clarify and address issues regarding the suspension of the two police constables had followed the family entering the state illegally. Gurung, during the press meet, presented an audio call transcript and a recording that took place between the Station Head Officer (SHO), Karma Tshering Tamang, and DGP Sikkim, Shri A. Shankar Rao, IPS.

Gurung stated that the error was an ‘unintentional mistake’ committed by the person on duty at the Melli Check Post.

“There was a communication gap from the execution poi t and between the constable on duty causing the constable to misunderstand the direction that were provided, leading him to letting the family enter the State and that it was an unintentional mistake”.

It was also claimed that the error occurred due to a time gap and a change in the shifts of the duty persons.

It was also announced that the suspension order of the two duty constables was revoked and that they would be reinstated after the Department, possibly due to the public outrage which followed their previous decision.

It was also informed on July 5, that a decision was taken by the State Task Force and announced by the District Collector East Raj Yadav, the entry through Melli Check post would no longer be allowed for returnees coming based on E-Permit as of July 6.

All returnees including the ones from other districts would be allowed to enter the state only through Rangpo Check Post and will be quarantined in the East District only as per the Health Department’s protocols while screening at Melli Check Post shall continue for other purposes.

The Chief Minister P.S. Tamang on the occasion of ‘A Day for Mother Earth’ also made an additional statement over the same.

“The incident that occurred at Jorethang was due to miscommunication and that is why the suspension of the two constables was also revoked, while the family will still be persecuted and tried whether under the IPC 307 which is an Attempt to Murder or through other sections, as the act they committed was a crime.”