Maharashtra’s rural belt be reeling under severe drought, but that doesn’t deter the state’s rural development minister, Pankaja Munde, from showing what many would term her utterly elitist behaviour.
While on a visit to drought-hit Sonpeth in Parbhani district, Munde removed her slippers after she spotted muddy road ahead. While she kept walking, a man picked up her chappals and carried them for the minister.
Munde defended herself arguing that the man, who carried her chappals was not a government staff but she had employed him in her personal capacity.
News agency PTI quoted her as saying, ” The media sees that I removed my chappals and somebody carried them. But did the media see the problems I had to endure while walking bare-feet? On seeing a muddy road I simply removed my chappals and continued walking. I wasn’t even aware that somebody has picked up my chappals. I learnt that later.”
Opposition Congress has seized the opportunity to launch attack against the Maharashtra minister calling her hypocrite.
Party’s spokesperson, Al-Nasser Zakaria said the incident belied Munde’s claim that she was sensitive to the plight of poor.
He said, “Her attitude shows the government in bad light. This only shows her high-handedness and being completely oblivious to the rights of people…What good will she do for a poor farmer when she makes a poor person carry her slippers? All her claims of serving the poor have fallen flat.”
Pankaja Munde’s behaviour may be deemed as wholly insensitive in a state, which records half of country’s total number of farmers’ suicides. These farmers have been committing suicides due to bad crops and their inability to pay huge debts.
Pankaja has been surrounded by several controversies ever she was inducted into Devendra Fednavis’ cabinet. She was accused of giving dam projects without any tender. Opposition parties had also asked for her resignation in what came to be knows as Chikki scam whereby chikki (sweet prepared using groundnuts and jaggery), given to tribal students under the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) was adulterated with clay.
Munde had cleared the purchase of the chikki, along with several other items including mats, books and water filters, by allegedly violating several norms and awarding contracts at a cost of Rs 206 crore.
Then, an RTI reply revealed how she had topped the list of absentees from the cabinets meetings.