UP Chief Secy Alok Ranjan Christmas family trip sparks controversy
Lucknow: It was Christmas and it was time for the Uttar Pradesh top bureaucrat to relax. But it had to be amid the tigers, in the loving company of his wife, son and daughter.So Uttar Pradesh chief secretary Alok Ranjan chose to play Santa Claus for his family and go on an ‘all-expenses-paid’ pleasure trip to the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve on December 25.
And it put the entire district administration and machinery into a tizzy. Everyone scurried to ensure that the bureaucrat and his family were kept in good humour; their ‘pleasure’ was the top priority for the Pilibhit district magistrate Om Narayan Singh, the SSP and the rest of the officials who scrambled to satisfy Ranjan.
Administrative sources informed Mail Today that the government spent about Rs 25 lakh for Ranjan’s pleasure trip.
About 23 air conditioners and 20 silent generators were installed to ensure that the chief secretary and his family members feel comfortable at the government’s guest house.
Sources informed Mail Today that the air conditioners kept Ranjan and his family warm at about 22 degrees Celsius inside the guest house, away from the freezing cold outside.
Additionally, a Bhojpuri artiste — Junior Baleshwar Yadav — and his troupe of six performers were reportedly paid Rs 70,000 to entertain Ranjan and his family on December 25.
However, the ruling Samajwadi Party is claiming ignorance. Samajwadi Party spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary told Mail Today: “He was on a three-day official visit to inspect various government schemes.
“I have no knowledge whether his family accompanied him. If any such thing has happened we will probe the matter.”
But, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party is mincing no words.
“Whether the ministers or the bureaucrats in this state… they all are using public money on such lavish activities. If Ranjan was on an ‘official’ visit then why did he take his family along with him to celebrate Christmas holidays?” state BJP spokesperson Vijay Bahadur Pathak told Mail Today.
It was around 1pm on December 25 that the state government’s helicopter carried Ranjan and his family members to the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve.
Confirming this fact forest ranger K P Singh told Mail Today: “His chopper arrived here on December 25 afternoon. He was accompanied by his family members.”
Ideally, the helicopter should not have landed there at all. But flouting all norms about wildlife protection, a helipad was hurriedly set up at the Chuka spot within the Reserve.
The entire police machinery did whatever they could to ensure that the ‘illegal’ helipad becomes operational to ensure Ranjan and family’s safe landing inside the tiger turf.
Both the district magistrate and the SSP were present at the helipad to welcome the chief secretary and his family.
Government officials unloaded their baggage and spared no effort so that the chief secretary and his family feel comfortable.
The group was then escorted to the VVIP guest house of the Reserve as the staffers and the government officials got ready to “look after the special guests for the next three days”.
The holidaying group stayed there till Saturday afternoon and then left the Reserve for Lakhimpur. From Lakhimpur they took a flight to state Capital Lucknow the same day.
“Ranjan and his family stayed here for three days and left for Kishanpur Sanctuary in the adjoining Lakhimpur district by road,” an administrative official of Pilibhit confirmed to Mail Today, preferring anonymity.
It’s not that Ranjan, a senior IAS officer, was unaware of the implications of using the government machinery and spending government’s money for this ‘private’ trip on Christmas.
So, the entire trip was kept as a closely-guarded secret, away from the eyes of the media. In fact, to avoid spreading of the news of his visit, the government helicopter was sent back to Lucknow on December 26 morning.
However, the ‘secret’ visit did not remain a secret, thanks to a sanctuary staff who captured the bureaucrat’s grand welcome in a video.
This video has now reached journalists who are now raising uncomfortable questions with Ranjan.
However, the chief secretary appeared unperturbed with the questions. He claimed that the visit to the Tiger Reserve was “official”.
He also did not answer questions as to why his family accompanied him or about the expenses incurred by the government for this ‘private’ trip; Ranjan preferred to duck the posers with a smile.
Talking to reporters in Lakhimpur, before leaving for Lucknow, Ranjan said: “We are in talks with the BSNL for ensuring a mobile network in this region as we have received various complaints about lack of communication network in this region.
“The government is also working on connecting the Katarniya Ghat, Dudhwa National Park, Lakhimpur Sanctuary and the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve with two-lane roads.
“Currently, these national parks have single-road connectivity and we are in the process of providing a two-lane road.”
Indeed, the area doesn’t have functional mobile phone connectivity. And so, sources told Mail Today, the SSP and other police officials were tasked to communicate “important information” about the chief secretary’s “personal needs” using the walkie-talkies — which are official resources.
The whims and fancies of the top bureaucrat and his family members were put across to the concerned people outside the Reserve so that the ‘demands’ were met with alacrity.
The chief secretary and his family members, administrative sources told Mail Today, had a relaxed time at the VVIP guest house.
But even as he “admired the beauty and biodiversity of the Reserve”, Ranjan took some time off on Friday to distribute the ‘Samajwadi Party Pension Scheme’ pass books and 1,593 cycles to labourers at a programme organised by the district administration.
It was Christmas after all and all-powerful Ranjan wanted to share a dash of happiness with the subaltern.