[ Amar Sangno ]
ITANAGAR, Jul 24: A purported audio clip of late Tadu Obey, deputy manager of the Arunachal Pradesh Consumers’ Cooperative Federation Ltd (APCCF), Naharlagun, who died on 26 June, in conversation with APCCF Managing Director (MD) Birik Bole, has opened a can of worms, revealing that the government-run firm has been resorting to selective targeting of weaker employees who have no political backing, and subjecting them to mental harassment and nepotism.
The purported audio clip of Obey speaking with Bole has been shared by Tadu Tamin, younger brother of the deceased, with this daily. In the audio clip, she sounds deeply depressed and terrified about the voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) notice issued by the APCCF to eight employees, including her. Reportedly, Obey called up the MD the day after she and seven other employees had been slapped with the VRS notice.
“Sir, I got VRS letter yesterday. It’s been so many years, you asked me not to stay here; you sent me there. Sir, kindly let us live in peace during the pandemic. This office is more dangerous than the coronavirus. For so many years we have been bearing with the meagre amount; where would we go now? Have you ever thought, sir, how we faced hardship?” Obey is heard saying.
She is heard accussing Bole of targeting employees who are weak and have no political backing.
“You are selectively targeting the weaker in the office. Where would we go with this meagre amount? I have been promoted to deputy manager but still surviving with very less amount, but I respect this office for keeping us alive. Why are these things happening during the pandemic, sir?” she asks Bole.
“You have reminded me of SN Prasad’s tenure. I was tortured and harassed so much. He used to ask me not to come to office. You have reminded me of those days. After so many years in the department, why is this thing happening with me?” says Obey.
“I gave my entire life to service, but now with this order I’m reduced to a strand of hair. The order has mentioned unproductivity, despite my service to the federation. This order is targeting selectively, kicking out a few and keeping others,” she says.
Tamin, Obey’s younger brother, is blaming the MD for his sister’s death, claiming that his sister was subjected to mental harassment and injustice with the VRS notice on 1 June by the federation despite her sincere contributions in the growth of the federation for many years.
Tamin alleged that Obey was mentally harassed by the MD by serving the VRS notice. On the fateful day, she was in Bole’s chamber to discuss the VRS notice issued to her. She suddenly fell unconscious. When the others were alerted, she was rushed to the TRIHMS, where the doctor declared that her death was due to cerebrovascular attack caused by hypertension.
The deceased’s brother lodged an FIR at the Naharlagun police station against Birik Bole, accusing him of causing his sister’s death by mental harassment at workplace.
However, Bole denied the allegation of mental harassment at workplace, stating that Obey had been assigned to the diagnostic centre near the TRIHMS, which is far from his office. Bole also claimed that the allegation of unruly behaviour towards Obey in his officer chamber was “far from the fact, has no iota of truth.”
On being contacted, Investigating Officer Tadu Hassang said that due to lack of incriminating evidence, the police did not register the case, “as stroke was cited as the cause of death, and moreover, the family members refused to allow postmortem to be conducted on the deceased’s body.”
However, on 19 July, Naharlagun SDPO Rike Kamsi while speaking to The Dawnlit Post had said that investigation indicated that workplace harassment could have led to the stroke, and that a case would be registered.
On 1 June, APCCF Chairman Toko Kach issued VRS notices to eight employees, including Obey, stating that due to discontinuation of the NFSA/PDS carriage business in both the Itanagar capital region and Papum Pare and closing down of most of the counters and retail businesses of the federation, the federation had surplus unproductive staffers. It also stated that the federation “is now facing financial constraint and not in position to pay the salaries of staff.”
When contacted, Kach said, “In this federation, the decision-making does not entirely lies on the chairman and the MD. Whatever decision is taken, it’s by the board of directors (BoD), which consists of nine members.”
“In BoD we took the decision to send unproductive staffers on VRS. It was not compulsory. We gave a deadline of 31 June. All of them submitted unwilling application not to go on VRS,” he added.
Bole informed that the decision to issue VRS notices to the eight staffers was taken by the BoD during a meeting attended by four of its members on 26 May.
The other seven staffers are Marpi Ruyi (sales assistant), Kipa Laknya (peon), Tame Yarang (peon), Godak Yube (driver), Koya Nasi (peon), Yapi Nguki (peon), and Mitili Gogoi.
“I was asked by the MD not to come to office after 1st July, saying the federation has no fund to pay our salaries. But I kept coming to office as I have nowhere to go and no other option,” said a staffer who did not wish to be named.
“If at all the federation has no fund to pay our salaries, why did he recruit three of his own relatives?” the staffer added.
It is alleged that the MD appointed three staffers – an AGM and two sales assistants – in August and November, 2018. All are reportedly his kith and kin. However, he denied that they were his relatives, saying the appointment was made only after the approval of the chairman.
Earlier, the APCCF chairman had issued a compulsory retirement scheme (CRS) notice to a senior general manager, CK Tiwari, on 29 May. Tiwari had to seek the court’s intervention to halt his CRS.
The chairman and the MD were unable to answer the query on the parameters of categorizing staffers as ‘unproductive’, as none of the alleged relatives were categorized as ‘unproductive’, nor were they served VRS notices.
[ Amar Sangno ]