The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on Wednesday arrested Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation’s standing committee chairman Nitin Landge, his personal secretary and three civic employees for allegedly accepting Rs 1.18 lakh in bribe from a contractor.
While the ruling BJP claimed that the arrests were part of a “bigger political game” in view of the civic elections, to be held early next year, NCP said it has been consistently raising its voice against “rampant corruption” in PCMC and it has been proved right.
Besides Landge, who is a BJP corporator from Bhosari area, the others arrested include his personal secretary Dnyaneshwar Pingale, civic clerk Vijay Chavria, computer operator Rajendra Shinde and peon Arvind Kamble.
The ACB action came soon after the weekly standing committee meeting, which took place at PCMC headquarters on Wednesday afternoon. After the meeting got over around 4 pm, the standing committee chairman remained in his cabin on the third floor of PCMC headquarters, while the three civic employees reportedly went to the parking lot.
ACB officials said the civic employees were caught accepting Rs 1.18 lakh bribe from a contractor, on behalf of the chairman and his secretary, at the parking lot.
The contractor had tipped off the ACB about the alleged bribe demand from the standing committee chairman and his secretary, said officials of the Bureau.
“We have arrested five persons, including PCMC standing committee chairman Nitin Landge, for taking bribe. They have been arrested under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. All five will be produced in court on Thursday,” ACB Superintendent of Police Rajesh Bansode told The Indian Express.
Bansode said a contractor had lodged a complaint with the ACB, after which Bureau officials conducted the raid. “The contractor had bagged contracts from PCMC for erecting advertising hoardings. The amount was demanded for issuing the work order,” he said.
In a press release, the ACB said the contractor was initially asked to pay Rs 10 lakh, which is 3 per cent of the total contract amount for 28 tenders. “During a meeting with the standing committee chairman Nitin Landge and his secretary, they demanded the bribe amount from the contractor for issuing the work order. After discussion, the amount came down to Rs 6 lakh. Finally, for approving six files of the contract, Rs 1.18 lakh was demanded from the contractor. Three staffers were arrested for taking the bribe in the parking lot of the civic headquarters on behalf of the chairman. Later, the chairman and his personal secretary were questioned and taken into custody,” read the statement.
BJP’s Pimpri-Chinchwad unit president Mahesh Landge, however, claimed that the ACB action was “politically motivated”.
“In view of the ensuing election, we suspect a bigger political game to defame and oust BJP, which has been doing a good job for the people of Pimpri-Chinchwad… I know Nitin Landge for years, he will never do anything of this sort. He has been framed,” said Landge.
The NCP, the main opposition party in PCMC, said the action was long overdue. “After the BJP came to power, corruption has reached every office and department of the civic body. We have been consistently raising the issue of corruption. We had even intimated the state government. The ACB action has proved that what the NCP was saying was right,” said NCP’s Pimpri-Chinchwad unit president Sanjog Waghere.
This is the second major action by the ACB inside the PCMC headquarters in the last four years. On April 24, 2017, ACB sleuths had nabbed the stenographer of then PCMC municipal commissioner Dinesh Waghmare for allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs 12 lakh from a builder for issuing completion certificates for his newly-constructed buildings.
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