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`Manhandling' of official hits staff morale

By Our Staff Reporter

ANANTAPUR, FEB. 29. The district administration's alleged failure to intervene in time and lack of proper departmental norms and guidelines over payment of bills to the deviated works is learnt to have led to the alleged manhandling of the Superintending Engineer of the Panchayat Raj Department, V. Mallikarjuna Rao, by the former Penukonda legislator and TDP leader, Paritala Ravindra, here on Friday.

According to eye-witness accounts who preferred not to be quoted, the TDP leader came along with his supporters in several vehicles, entered the SE's chamber, used filthy language against him and allegedly pulled him out by holding his shirt and forced him to board a vehicle. Most of the supporters of the leader were contractors-cum-TDP leaders whose bills were pending after they had executed the works.

Interestingly, the former Whip of the Government, P. Raghunatha Reddy, and the district president of the party, V. Hanumatharaya Chowdary, were also spectators to the ugly episode. The SE is learnt to have informed the District Collector, Y.V. Anuradha, of the incident while he was being taken forcibly to Penukonda by the TDP leader. However, the Collector is said to have responded by telling the SE that she would talk to the TDP leader on the issue.

Speaking to newspersons along with Mr. Ravindra on Friday, the Collector admitted delay in payment of the bills and said the SE was not taken away forcibly. He was asked to come to Penukonda as he was acting as the Executive Engineer of Penukonda division till February 25. She also stated that Mr. Ravindra had never brought the issue (delay in payment) to her notice. Meanwhile, it is being felt among official circles here that the higher-ups had failed to come to the rescue of a district officer when the latter was treated shabbily by the TDP leader. They are of the view that the higher-ups should have been firm on the issue and stopped the SE from being taking away to Penukonda.

There is also an impression that the docile attitude of the higher-ups in dealing with the matter had lowered the morale of the district officers. The SE is learnt to have signed cheques pertaining to six bills at the Penukonda office on Friday. The bills were dated February 21 when the SE was acting as the incharge executive engineer of Penukonda. He had handed over charge to Seshi Reddy on February 25. The SE clarified today that there was no delay on his part and added that the pending bills pertained to the period of a year ago and more. Besides, all the bills pertained to deviated works.

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