Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav is in the dock for ordering the suspension of Durga Shakti Nagpal, a sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) in Gautam Budh Nagar district. Much to the discomfiture of the Samajwadi Party government, the young IAS officer’s suspension has snowballed into a big controversy, prompting the Centre to ask for a report from the state government on the matter.
A 2009 batch IAS officer, Nagpal’s suspension order came in the intervening night of 27-28 July. The CM defended the action saying it was an administrative measure taken to “prevent communal tension” after she had ordered the demolition of the wall of an under-construction mosque in Kadalpura village under Rabupura police station. He alleged that Nagpal had not followed the due process of law in ordering the demolition.
However, soon after the news broke of Nagpal’s suspension, SHO Ajay Singh of Rabupura police station filed a report to the district superintendent of police that there was no communal tension in the area.
The opposition parties have alleged that Nagpal was victimised for cracking down on illegal sand mining in the Yamuna riverbed. Recently, she had got more than two dozen FIRs lodged to curb illegal sand mining and impounded around 30 dumpers, trucks and other equipment. Her efforts resulted in the collection of over Rs 85 lakh in revenue for the state exchequer, but also earned her the wrath of the sand mafia. Illegal sand mining in Noida is a lucrative business worth over Rs 300 crore annually and allegedly enjoys political patronage.
Narendra Singh Bhati, a Samajwadi Party leader from Gautam Budh Nagar district who is also a Minister of State in the Akhilesh Yadav government, is said to have been instrumental in getting Nagpal suspended. Bhati is alleged to have links with the sand mining mafia, though he has denied the charge.
The controversy over the SDM’s suspension got murkier on 31 July with the murder of Paleram Chauhan, a farmer from Raipur village in Greater Noida. Chauhan was actively campaigning against illegal sand mining in the Yamuna riverbed near his village. Anticipating a threat to his life, he had lodged complaints with the district magistrate and SP of Gautam Budh Nagar district. Pawan Chauhan, the nephew of the deceased, accused the sand mining mafia of being behind the murder. An FIR has been lodged.
Meanwhile, unfazed by the nationwide outrage over the suspension of the IAS officer, the state government is firm on its stand that the SDM’s action could have caused communal trouble. PWD Minister Shivpal Singh Yadav told the media on 31 July that “it was a correct decision to suspend the SDM” and claimed that it had nothing to do with her campaign against illegal sand mining. He also accused the media of running a campaign to malign the Samajwadi Party government.
“There was a well-planned conspiracy to foment communal trouble in the area and a political party was also involved,” said Yadav. “Ninety percent of the residents of the village where the mosque is located are Muslims. The villagers never complained against the construction of the mosque or the wall, yet the SDM ordered the demolition after a complaint by some outsiders. No one can be allowed to foment communal trouble and the SDM has been placed under suspension for dereliction of duty.”
A senior official in the chief minister’s secretariat told TEHELKA, “The demolition of the boundary wall of the mosque in Kadalpura village could have led to communal tension in the area. It was this action, and not her campaign against the sand mafia, that forced the government to suspend her.”
The Uttar Pradesh IAS Association, however, has rallied behind Nagpal and demanded that her suspension order be revoked. “Considering the circumstances under which she was placed under suspension, we have demanded the immediate revocation of the suspension order,” said Parthsarathi Sen Sharma, secretary of the association.
The members of the association met the Acting Chief Secretary Alok Ranjan and lodged a strong protest against the suspension of Durga Nagpal. “I will place all the relevant facts before the chief minister and then the government will take suitable action,” said Ranjan, who is also president of the UP IAS Association.
Adding to the wave of support for Nagpal, the Indian Civil and Administrative Service (Central) Association has sought the intervention of the Centre to get her suspension revoked.
How the story plays out in the days ahead will be a pointer to the influence of the illegal sand mining mafia in Uttar Pradesh politics.