At least 11 public servants including some senior officers of Mechanical Division, Jammu and Kashmir were seen openly flouting COVID-19 related rules last week, flaunting that government employees can break rules with impunity.
At a welfare function held on the occasion of the retirement of two executive engineers of Mechanical Division Srinagar and Baramulla, the government employees presented momentos, posed for photos session and delivered speeches, all without wearing a face mask or maintaining social distancing.
They not only risked their own health and lives at risk, but someone from them brought a minor boy with them at the function, who was also without a face mask. The child was seen posing with them, without a face mask. Only one person at the gathering was seen wearing a face mask.
Over 1.24 lakh cases of coronavirus have been reported in Jammu and Kashmir so far, out of which 1,941 people have succumbed to the disease, according to the administration.
Fine for not wearing a mask
Failing to wear a face mask in public places and at gatherings is a penal offence and attracts a fine of Rs 200 in Srinagar for first-time violators. The fine increases to Rs 500 if anyone violates the rules for the second time. However, it is highly unlikely that these public servants would be made to pay any fine.
In December 2020, Srinagar Municipal Corporation enacted J&K Municipal Corporation Act, making it mandatory for the residents to wear a face mask in public places in the summer capital.
At that time, Srinagar mayor had sought the cooperation of departments to spread awareness and strict enforcement of the COVID-19 related rules and appropriate behaviours. The officials of the Mechanical Department, it seems, do not care about the Mayor's appeal, the rules or the health of people.
In December, the Mayor had said that the corporation would seek the help of various government departments to enforce the COVID-related guidelines on the ground. We will reach out to other departments and their decentralized field workers, the Mayor had said.
We're irresponsible: Message to general public
Even after the launch of the extensive efforts to strictly enforce guidelines by the municipal corporation, it seems government department or at least, their workers, are not fully cooperating.
The question is what kind of message these public servants want to send to the general public who look up to government officials with respect to observing any law or rule? What their intention may be, they end up making fun of the law and themselves.
Will there be any action against these violators?
Violation of COVID-19 related guidelines will be dealt sternly under the ambit of law, Srinagar Municipal Corporation Mayor Junaid Azim Mattu had said. Will there be any action against attendees of the programme as the Mayor suggested? We contacted the Srinagar district collector and divisioner commissioner for the comment. The message, however, did not elicit any response.
The farewell function was organised on the occasion of superannuation of Er. Abdul Rashid Bhat, Executive Engineer, Mechanical Division Srinagar and Er. Harpal Singh Talvar, Executive Engineer, Mechanical Division Baramulla. They retired on January 31, 2021.
The function was attended by Chief Engineer, Mechanical Engineering Department, (MED) Kashmir Er. Rashid Ahmad Dar, Chairman Institution of Engineers JKSC and Director of Disaster Management Er. Aamir Ali, Superintending Engineer, MED Kashmir Er. Sanjay Sharma and Superintending Engineer, PHE Kashmir Er. Afaq Ahmad, besides Executive Engineers, AEEs, AEs, Junior Engineers, Works Supervisors, Operator Crew, other staff and office bearers of various Associations.