India force civil servant couple to live 3,000 km apart for ‘shutting down national stadium to walk dog’

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A major sports stadium in the national capital of India was forced to shut down early and athletes were told to leave so a bureaucrat could walk his dog. Screengrab (Indian Express / Youtube)
A major sports stadium in the national capital of India was forced to shut down early and athletes were told to leave so a bureaucrat could walk his dog. Screengrab (Indian Express / Youtube)

The Indian government transferred two senior bureaucrats to different parts of the country after it found out that they were forcing a major sports stadium in Delhi to shut early so they could take their dog for a walk.

The officials were identified as Sanjeev Khirwar and his wife Rinku Dugga, both bureaucrats in the capital city’s government.

Local newspaper The Indian Express first reported on Wednesday that the couple forced athletes to leave the government-run Thyagraj Stadium, a major sports facility in Delhi, early so that they could walk their pet.

The article drew widespread outrage from citizens on social media and also prompted responses from the local and the federal governments.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal issued a new order on Thursday stating that all sports facilities in the capital shall now remain open till 10pm.

Later in the day, the federal ministry of home affairs transferred the couple to different parts of the country, with immediate effect. Mr Khirwar has been transferred to Ladakh, while Ms Dugga has been sent to the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh — more than 3,400km (2,110 miles) apart. It was not clear where the dog would go.

A ministry spokesperson said they had also sought a report from the chief secretary of Delhi about the misuse of facilities at Thyagraj Stadium.

“Chief Secretary, Delhi, submitted a report later in the evening on the factual position to MHA. In the meanwhile, Sanjeev Khirwar has been transferred by MHA to Ladakh and Rinku Dugga to Arunachal Pradesh. Necessary action will be initiated based on the report,” the spokesperson said.

Politicians from across the spectrum joined the chorus of voices criticising the bureaucrat couple.

The Delhi Bharatiya Janata Party chief Adesh Gupta wrote to lieutenant governor Vinai Kumar Saxena and sought action against Mr Khirwar.

Opposition Congress MP Manish Tewari asked Union minister of state Jitendra Singh to “make an example out of this officer”.

Athletes who were forced to cut short their training and leave the stadium for Mr Khirwar and Ms Dugga are also up in arms.

“The government made this track for athletes and runners, and not for dogs. If an IAS officer or any other senior official misuses it, then it is wrong,” an athlete who was only identified by his first name Amit told ANI news agency.

Mr Khirwar has denied disrupting any practices at the stadium.

He alleged that he “sometimes” took his pet for a walk at the stadium, but denied that it disrupted the practice routine of athletes. “If it’s something objectionable, I will stop it,” he added.

Thyagraj Stadium in Delhi was built for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, and is a centrally located multi-discipline sporting complex.

Social media was abuzz with reactions to the “entitlement” of the senior Indian government bureaucrats.

Gaurav Pandhi, a member of the main opposition Congress party said on Twitter: “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!”

Some users on social media, predictably, are more worried about the couple’s dog. “What happens to the doggo,” they asked, wondering if it would go to Ladakh or Arunachal Pradesh.