Patna: A harrowing Bihar Day day for two men who demanded more transparency from the Bihar Government: they were detained for six hours in a police station after they raised questions in front of chief minister Nitish Kumar.
Two entrepreneurs who questioned chief minister Nitish Kumar at a start-up meet on Tuesday spent six hours in police detention after the event without being allowed to eat, drink, go to the toilet or even talk to their family members on the ground that their details needed to be noted down, says a report in a local daily.
Nemi Kumar, 43, of Madhubani and Suresh Kumar Sharma, 46, of Chhaurahi in Begusarai were delegates at the “4th Bihar Entrepreneurship Summit-Start-up Bihar” organised by Bihar Entrepreneurs Association (BEA) in Patna(March 22). Mr Nitish Kumar was the chief guest at the event.
The two entrepreneurs had raised issues before the chief minister: Nemi on transparency in government funding of start-up projects and Suresh on harassment he faced from banks in taking a loan for his initiative.
What followed was a harrowing ordeal that lasted from around 2pm to 8pm.
“We were cornered and whisked away to Gandhi Maidan police station by police and special branch officials soon after the function got over and the chief minister left the venue. We were treated like criminals and detained in a room inside the police station for over six hours,” Nemi told The Telegraph in Patna . Suresh echoed him in a separate conversation.
Confined inside the room, both of them continuously pleaded before the station house officer (SHO) and other policemen to allow them to have food, use the toilet and also inform their families.
“Our entreaties fell on deaf ears. The police officials said they have been directed by deputy superintendent (town) Kailash Prasad to detain us at the police station till he comes and questions us. We were at our wits’ end on what to do. Our mobile phones were also seized by the policemen,” Nemi said.
“We rued raising genuine issues at the summit and even coming to participate. Had we known that we will have to face this, we would not have asked anything. We were afraid and upset as the policemen were very rude to us,” Nemi said.
Around 8pm, they mustered courage and asked Gandhi Maidan SHO Priyaranjan Kumar when the deputy superintendent would come to the police station. At this they were told that he (DSP Prasad) will not come as he was busy with some law and order issue and hence they would be allowed to leave.
However, both of them were asked to sign a statement that they were treated well by the police personnel and they were being released in hale and hearty condition. Their mobile numbers and addresses were also noted down.
When contacted over phone today, DSP (Town) Prasad admitted to The Telegraph that “both of them (Nemi and Suresh) were detained at the police station to gather their details”.
However, when asked why it took six hours to gather their details, Prasad disconnected the call.
Special branch sub-inspector Om Prakash Srivastava said he had sent the two entrepreneurs to Gandhi Maidan police station as the chief minister had wanted to meet them. “I thought their details should be recorded in case any senior official asks for them later.” But he did not explain why the entrepreneurs had to be taken to a police station for their details to be noted when that could have been done at the venue itself.
ADG (police headquarters) Sunil Kumar said: “The duo were detained at the police station to verify their criminal antecedents. One of them Suresh Kumar Sharma is currently on bail in a case. However, no adverse report has been found or received against Nemi Kumar.”
Director-general of police P.K. Thakur said he was not aware of what happened. “The matter has not been officially reported to me. Let me verify if such an incident has happened. At times, police detain people for verifying their antecedents,” Thakur said.
It all started when Nemi, an MBA in rural management from an institute in Himachal Pradesh with dreams of becoming a successful entrepreneur in Bihar, raised the issue of lack of transparency about the selected start-up proposals and the grounds for rejection of the others at the event.
Nemi said he had submitted four start-up ideas, including one on making gadgets to prevent the spread of foot-and-mouth disease among cattle and another on manufacturing automatic machines to stick bills and various types of paper cuttings for filing or documentation purposes.
Nemi stood up during the event and pointed out that Bihar has launched a start-up policy and altogether 700 applications had reached the industries department, out of which 108 were accepted for partial government funding. But no list of the selected proposals was made public, nor were those rejected told the reasons.
He raised the issue in a forceful manner at the venue – Sri Krishna Memorial Hall, just across Gandhi Maidan – which was overflowing with people. It immediately attracted the attention of everybody present. The security personnel swung into action and tried to remove him from the venue.
However, it did not go down well with the audience and sensing the mood, Patna district magistrate Sanjay Kumar Agarwal rushed towards Nemi and stopped the security personnel from ousting him.
Later, the chief minister, while addressing the summit, told the officials that he wanted to meet Nemi after the function.
Suresh of Begusarai raised an issue related to being harassed by bank officials with relation to a loan he had taken to manufacture machines to make “chura” (flattened rice) and “murhi” (puffed rice) while Nitish was speaking. The interruption made the chief minister lose his cool.
“If you want to say something, you should come here (on the dais) and speak. Had this been an interactive event, I would have fixed my schedule accordingly. The session of legislature is going on, so many things are there. You need to learn behavioural skills first before establishing start-ups,” Nitish told Suresh.
The chief minister met Nemi while leaving the venue around 1.45pm and listened to his grievance. Nitish directed the industries department to make public the list of the selected start-up proposals and also guide the applicants from the time they submit proposals.
Once the chief minister’s cavalcade left the venue, sub-inspector with the special branch of the Bihar Police Om Prakash Srivastava stopped the two entrepreneurs, called a police vehicle and handed them over to the Gandhi Maidan police.
The two entrepreneurs said that their families were also worried as there was no contact for six hours. They also pointed out that their mobile phones were also checked by the police, which was a breach of their privacy. “This shows that we are living under ‘police raj’ and not in a democracy,” said Nemi.