Shortly after coming to power in Rajasthan in 2010, the then Congress government scrapped a 108-ambulance contract awarded by the previous BJP government, ostensibly because of irregularities, called for fresh tenders and roped in a new contractor.
The new contract forms the basis of a report the state police has filed against then chief minister Ashok Gehlot, state Congress chief Sachin Pilot and other leaders. The police have named these leaders on charges of financial discrepancies to the tune of Rs 2.56 crore in operating the service.
The service had been introduced by the Vasundhara Raje government in 2008. EMRI was awarded the contract for five years. The Congress government scrapped it two years later and, after fresh tenders, awarded it to Ziqitza Healthcare Limited for the remaining three years, allegedly after altering the terms for eligibility.
An internal audit by the National Rural Health Mission too had noted irregularities. Under NRHM rules, every ambulance would be billed for at least four trips a day, and have GPRS installed. The audit report, attached with the police report, has found multiple fake trips were billed, showing pick and drop for the same patient several times. GPRS was installed in only 197 of the state’s 306 ambulances. All ambulances were shown in service and billed though in practice a few are off-road for various reasons, the audit noted.
The complaint at Ashok Nagar police station was filed by former Jaipur mayor Pankaj Joshi on July 31 last year. It has named former state health minister A A Khan, former union minister P Chidmabaram’s son Karti and Vayalar Ravi’s son Ravi Krishna, Kerala CM Oommen Chandy’s former economic adviser Shaffi Mather, former Ziqitza CEO Sweta Mangal, and the NRHM director. The case is under IPC sections relating to cheating, forgery and criminal conspiracy.
An initial probe by the Ashok Nagar police has found the allegations substantiated and the police have forwarded their report to the CID Crime Branch for further investigation as it involves elected representatives. The complainant has named Pilot, Krishna and Karti as directors of Ziqitsa. Pilot has clarified that he has had no association with the firm over the past 10 years. “I joined the company in 2002 when it was a non-profit organisation. When it switched to being a commercial company I withdrew,” Pilot told The Indian Express.
Pilot called the action taken by the BJP government “malicious” and “motivated”. Gehlot too dismissed the allegations and told reporters decisions for tendering were not taken at the level of the chief minister.
In New Delhi, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the police move smacks of vendetta. “The Rajasthan government has began politics of revenge. Despite that, our colleagues, friends and leaders are ready for any probe,” Surjewala said.
False cases play havoc with the crime statistics and tend to trivialise the offence of rape.