BHUBANESWAR: While police are making efforts to break the network of labour agents (middlemen) in the migration-prone Balangir and Nuapada districts, two videos showing labour officials taking bribe went viral on social media on Saturday in Balangir district . After the first video surfaced, the government immediately put Ballav Nag, a clerk of the district labour office, under suspension.
State labour commissioner Niranjan Sahu said the clerk was suspended based on prima facie evidence of receiving bribe. “The departmental investigation is on,” he told TOI.
In the video, Nag was seen demanding bribe from an agent for issuing him a licence to take labourers outside the state for work. Nag was also heard saying, ‘nothing happens without gratification’. Though the agent had submitted the necessary papers to obtain the licence, Nag kept asking for money.
In the second video, which surfaced some hours later after the first one went viral, divisional labour commissioner Saroj Kumar Ranjito was seen talking to a person and saying, “We have no demands. You can give whatever you want to give”. In the next minute, the man was seen keeping a sum of money on Ranjito’s table, which he picked up and covered with a paper.
“We have asked the district collector of Balangir to submit a report on the video showing the divisional labour commissioner accepting bribe. Once the report comes in, the government will take a call on the action to be taken,” Sahu added. Collector (Balangir) Arindam Dakua said he submitted the report. “After an investigation, it was found that the divisional labour commissioner had taken bribe. The officer also admitted to it,” he told TOI.
The labour middlemen send hordes of labourers to the brick kilns of other states. They usually bribe labour officials to obtain a licence. To avoid scrutiny by the labour office, the agents keep gratifying the officials as they take labourers more than the permissible limit.
Police have started to crack down on middlemen under the government’s 5T initiative, which aims to bring transparency and transformation. So far, around 100 agents have been arrested across five districts.