Minister Priya Manickchand has shown strong interest and taken an even stronger position in the Mrs. Geetanjali Singh conflict of interest situation. She is now asked to demonstrate parallel interest and position in a matter involving her own ministry. I repeat: a matter involving her own ministry and which was addressed to her in writing on several occasions. The details follow.
Mr. Raja Singh does weeding; he can be described as one of those ubiquitous chaps moving around the city accompanied by a grass-cutter. He did some work in the compounds of four public schools. The jobs were all satisfactorily completed four years ago. And four years later, this worker, this small struggling family man has not been paid a single cent for his honest toil.
This is a clear and straightforward matter. There is no conflicting information, no murkiness, no question about his position: He has not been paid for work done on school premises, which fall within the purview of the Minister of Education. The current minister-and her predecessor- has been written to repeatedly; Mr. Singh has visited her office at least a “dozen times.” The letters he crafted and presented, in reality desperate appeals for payment, were hand delivered to her secretary, who assured Mr. Singh that his letters/appeals would reach the minister. Additionally, the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Liverpool, and Mr. Kishore were all approached in writing, and in person, repeatedly for payment to no avail. To quote Mr. Singh “close to a hundred times” in aggregate. Mr. Singh emphasized that he visited the ministry’s offices every Tuesday for an extended period, only to encounter the same public service “speak” and royal run around. One of the officers named above went so far as to tell this poor man, this humble worker that he “should forget about the monies owed.” I wonder….
Mr. Singh was told at different times that “there is no money” or “waiting on the budget” or “in process” or “these things take time.” He has had in-person conversations with former minister Baksh, and nothing has happened. It is four years later. I should say that Mr. Singh is a poor man with a family and a sick child. He needs to be paid for his work. I believe that the Hon Minister should have no difficulty in determining what has to be done here. I am similarly inclined to believe that she would have a vested interest in closing the books, so to speak, on this unacceptable situation existing right under her nose. After all, her gatekeepers and officers were presented with all related facts and circumstances time and again, on near countless occasions.
Mr. Singh stands ready to return to the Ministry of Education to present (once again) his claims for payment to any designee identified by the minister. I trust that Minister Manickchand will be sufficiently concerned to want to remove this small matter (not to Singh) from her list of concerns; and to do so early. It has been long enough already, and is troubling just to write about it. Amidst the cacophonies of the times, the billion dollar undertakings, and the thunder of indignation over sprawling conflicts, let this man be paid his pittance, please. He has earned it.