Locals in Dewahi Gonahi Municipality vandalised the municipal office today citing the negligence of the municipality in distributing rice to people on time, due to which a huge amount of rice rotted.

Locals and cadres of opposition parties turned out in large numbers at the municipal office from early morning today and staged a demonstration after they came to know that the municipality had disposed of rotten rice. The rice had been purchased for distribution among the poor and Dalit communities, but the municipality did not distribute it on time and as result the rice went to waste.

Dewahi Gonahi Municipality Ward 4 Chairperson Ram Prabesh Patel accused the municipality of secretly disposing the rotten rice.

"The rice was meant to be distributed to the poor and Dalits, who are worst affected by COVID-19, but after it decayed in the store, they dumped the rice secretly without letting anyone get wind of it, which is a sad thing to see," said the ward chair.

Dewahi Gonahi Municipality Ward 6 Chairperson Anil Jha expressed sadness at the threat from the municipality.

"The mayor purchased food items on his whim during the peak of the COVID crisis; he distributed some of the grains to his acquaintances and supporters and dumped the remaining rice in the store without distributing it to other people who badly needed assistance from the local level. When the locals learnt that rotten rice had been dumped secretly last night, they came to protest," Jha said, adding they had to demonstrate when the municipality issued threats to protesters.

Dewahi Gonahi Municipality Mayor Dharmendra Patel described the protest as politically motivated. "We had over 400 sacks of rice and other food items that had rotten, so we dumped them," he said, accusing Prabhu Saha's supporters and the deputy mayor's husband of inciting the locals to protest.

Mayor Patel also demanded action against the protesters who had pelted stones and vandalised the municipal office.

Windows were smashed and furniture and computers inside the office damaged due to stone-pelting that continued for about half an hour. Police had to use force as the situation was getting tense. "As the situation was getting worse, police had to baton-charge and fire tear gas to disperse the protesters," said Garuda Area Police Office DSP Shreeram Bhandari, adding that security has been beefed up at the site.

A version of this article appears in the print on July 28 2021, of The Himalayan Times.