Op-Ed: Public Representatives Must Set Good Examples

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: The controversy surrounding newly elected Patnagarh MLA, Saroj Meher’s alleged “dabanggiri” with a PWD junior engineer seems to be snowballing. With video clips of Meher, a first time lawmaker of Biju Janata Dal (BJD), forcing the JE to do sit-ups in public for having carried out poor quality of road work going viral the ruling party finds itself in an embarrassing situation. As the chances of public outrage against the MLA’s objectionable behaviour receding quickly appear remote chief minister, Naveen Patnaik may be forced to take disciplinary action against him.

That Meher has been elected to the assembly for the first time is no excuse for indulging in such an act which has not only compromised the dignity of a government servant but also shown his own fraternity in poor light. Being mass representatives MLAs and MPs ought to act with a high sense of responsibility as they are almost always under public scanner. But flush with his recent electoral victory Meher seems to have crossed the line.

There is nothing wrong with an MLA trying to test check the quality of work being done in his constituency. But the problem arises when he or she tries to play to the gallery which seems to be the case in this incident. Apparently acting upon the complaints of people in Belpada area of his constituency about the poor quality of work in an under-construction road project Meher went and personally examined the road work under progress. The video that has gone viral on the social media shows him digging up a patch of the freshly tarred road and then turning his ire on the junior engineer asking him to do sit-ups in full view of the assembled people.

It appeared to be a scene straight out of a kangaroo court, a piece of behaviour completely unacceptable in a civilized society. Such incidents, rightly cited as examples of lawlessness, might be common in some other Indian states but Odisha fortunately has been immune to such tendencies.

What is it that made Meher indulge in this kind of behaviour? Was this the arrogance of a ruling party MLA or was it the reckless exuberance of a man trying to show off his newly acquired power as a lawmaker? In both cases it is inexcusable and protests against him appear completely justified.

While the wife of the junior engineer concerned has lodged a police complaint the Bolangir Diploma Engineers’ Association staged demonstrations demanding action against the MLA who, in the meanwhile, has offered an apology and sought to explain his act as an attempt to assuage public anger against the poor quality of road work in the Belpada area.

Apology notwithstanding the reprehensible act of the MLA deserves the all-round condemnation that it has been drawing. The least that the BJD can do is to reprimand the errant MLA and warn him to desist from such behaviour in future. If the party lets him off without a warning it will be seen as an act of hubris. It will set a bad example.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)