Bangalore South MP Tejasvi Surya, in the eye of a storm for having communalised the bed allocation operation of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) when the city is in the throes of its worst outbreak of Covid-19, apparently went back to the Bengaluru south zone war room yet again on Thursday. This time to apologise.
This came hours after a two-day-old video of Surya went viral. In the video, Surya is seen storming into the war room along with four MLAs from his parliamentary constituency, reading out 16 names of Muslim employees, while another MLA asks if they are running a helpline or a madrasa.
Fact checks over the claims that these 16 members of the war room were involved in a bed allocation scam led to a deadend, as only one of these 16 was part of the team of bed allocation — and he had joined it temporarily just last week to replace another employee who had a personal emergency at home. The other 15 — most of them young graduates in their early twenties — were members of other teams involved in indexing, home isolation supervision and discharge of patients who finished quarantine period.
“My employees called me to say that Surya had visited the war room. He apparently told them ‘I have nothing personal against any of you. If anyone or any community is hurt emotionally by my visit, I apologise for that. I wanted to probe the bed allocation scam which had come to my notice, but if my actions had hurt anyone, please accept my apologies,’ he told the staff,” said Shivu Naik, project manager of the Crystal Infosystems and Services, the agency that had hired and delegated manpower for the hurried war rooms of the BBMP.
Naik further said that these 16 were part of a 212-member team deployed at BBMP for various tasks — and there was no reason why they were targeted.
“We have kept them away from the war room tasks now, because of the allegations, but I have told them that the minute the police enquiry clears you, we will reinstate you either here or in any of the other projects we send staff for. But even otherwise, all our staff were anguished and scared, after such a sudden visit and the issue turning political. Many of them have stayed away from work, it was in fact affecting all Covid-coordination the last two days. We have tried to reassure them that enquiries happen, those who have done nothing wrong have nothing to fear. But perhaps it was because work was suffering that Surya came again, we are not sure what prompted the second visit,” Naik told News18.
The company had not hired Muslims in particular. It had deployed 212 members who were on their rolls for five kinds of tasks — indexing, home isolation, discharge team, bed allocation and helpline. Staff work on different shifts, in different wings. All 16 were never working together in any shift or any team. They were assigned tasks and shifts by the BBMP, not by the agency. They could be moved from one to another as well. Some of them have been working at the war room for a month, some others for just a week or even four days.
Surya had alleged at a press conference two days ago that there was a bed allocation scam — fake blocking and unblocking of hospital beds allotted — of 4,065 beds in the last 10 days. It showed a nexus of BBMP officials and private hospital agents.
While the Central Crime Branch has taken up this investigation now and conducted raids at all war rooms of all eight zones in BBMP to verify data, so far four persons have been arrested.
The south zone staff was apparently worried that since some were taken for prolonged police interrogation, the 16 members named were labelled as ‘terrorists’ in many social media posts; they thought they could be detained too for any reason. IAS officers of the BBMP came in to reassure them that they had nothing to fear — that BBMP must respond to those families suffering from Covid, and “filled them with confidence,” Naik said.