Vaniyambadi Municipal Commissioner Cecil Thomas has been transferred from his post and is yet to receive another posting, following outrage over his efforts to intimidate fruit and vegetable sellers in the local market. On Wednesday, videos of the civic official from Tirupattur district showed him dropping produce onto the floor, destroying carefully arranged mounds of fruit and turning over a pushcart. His action attracted immense criticism on social media.
Politicians, activists and residents of the state pointed out that the officer lacked empathy and was causing monetary losses for vendors. Speaking to TNM about the incident, Cecil claimed that his actions were a result of non-cooperation by the vendors. He stated that for the last week, efforts were underway to clear the market area and to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. However, despite orders and even temporary confiscation of carts, the vendors allegedly returned to the spot.
And while authorities initially did not take any action against the officer, they were forced to suspend him after the video of his acts went viral and the State Human Rights Commission took notice.
"He has been transferred from post because of his actions. We had to act on the matter and the Commissioner for Municipal administration decided to remove him from the post. He is yet to get another posting," confirmed Tirupattu Collector MP Sivanarul. "We collected a report (based on police and eyewitness accounts) on the matter. The affected are not people who can stand up for themselves. We have now posted an officer called Mr. Babu who was Melvisharam Commissioner in Ranipet district," he added.
Cecil had earlier told TNM that his objective was to scare away vendors, to prevent them from gathering at the market area.
"I just did this to scare them and make them fear coming to the market," he said. "For the past week, I have been giving warnings to them to not set up stalls. We even confiscated their pushcarts for a day and then gave it back but they are refusing to listen. I didn't want to take legal action as that will cause them permanent problems," he added.
Sources in the district administration told TNM that municipality officials met the affected vendors and expressed regret over the incident.