Dog day afternoon: India banishes bureaucrat couple amid stadium dog walk furore

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India ordered the transfer of a bureaucrat couple to opposite ends of the country on Thursday, following public outcry over a media report alleging they forced a sports stadium in Delhi to shut early in order to walk their dog.

India's Ministry of Home Affairs transferred Sanjeev Khirwar, a top bureaucrat in the Delhi city state government, to Arunachal Pradesh state in the distant north-east and his wife Rinku Dugga, a secretary in the Delhi government, to Ladakh in the far north, according to an official order.

Located at the eastern and western ends of the Himalayan mountain range, their new postings are some 3,200 kilometres (2,000 miles) apart.

A report by the Indian Express, published with a photograph of Khirwar and Dugga walking their dog on the stadium track, said athletes had alleged that they had been forced to wrap up training early in order to make way for the couple's evening stroll.

The Indian Express quoted Khirwar as saying he "sometimes" took his pet for a walk at the stadium, but denied that it disrupted the practice routine of athletes.

Reuters was unable to reach Khirwar and Dugga for comment.

The Indian Express article triggered strong reactions from political leaders and social media users.

"What is this bizarre misuse of power where athletes are forced to wrap up their training early because a Govt officer has to walk his dog. Pathetic!", Gaurav Pandhi, a member of the main opposition Congress party, said on Twitter.

(Reporting by Nigam Prusty; Writing by Sudarshan Varadhan; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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