CONGRESS MLA from Gujarat’s Dhrangadhra, Parsottam Sabariya, was arrested in Morbi on Sunday for allegedly demanding Rs 40 lakh from the accused of an irrigation scam in return for not raising the issue at the local level or on the floor of the state Assembly. Police said that Sabariya had already received Rs 10 lakh. Along with Sabariya, police also arrested Bharat Ganeshiya, a lawyer from Halvad town of Morbi on Sunday, saying he was acting as a middleman between the scam accused and the MLA.
The Congress slammed the police action, saying that Sabariya was being targeted in order to shield “BJP bigwigs involved in the scam”.
Morbi SP Karanraj Vaghela said: “The MLA, through his associate Bharat Ganeshiya, demanded Rs 40 lakh (from accused) for not raising the issue of irregularities in repair and restoration of minor irrigation schemes at the local level and also on the floor of the Assembly. They eventually finalised the deal for Rs 35 lakh and accepted Rs 10 lakh through installments from the prime accused and representatives of societies (which had been assigned the work contract).”
“While we have not recovered any cash from the MLA till now, Ganeshiya had issued Sabariya a cheque as security for the balance payment of Rs 25 lakh,” said Banno Joshi, Deputy SP (Morbi division).
Sabariya’s arrest comes a month after police had registered an FIR on a complaint filed by an executive engineer of Irrigation Department in Morbi district panchayat, Satish Upadhyay. In his complaint, Upadhyay had alleged that C D Kanani, then executive engineer, had sanctioned Rs 20.31 crore for repair and restoration of 334 percolation tanks, check-dams and minor irrigation schemes in 2017-18 and 2018-19, but no major work was done on the ground and the money was withdrawn. He had also named Chaitanya Pandya, proprietor of Sustainable Construction Management Consultancy, a Rajkot-based firm which had been assigned project management consultancy of the repair work.
After the government received complaints of irregularities, the Irrigation Department formed five committees last month to conduct spot inspections of these projects. After the spot inspection of 46 randomly selected projects, the teams concluded that the work shown in documents had actually not been done, and alleged that irregularities to the tune of Rs 66.91 lakh had been committed in the 46 inspected projects.
On the direction of Narmada, Water Resources, Water Supply and Kalpasar Department, Upadhyay filed a police complaint on September 27. Based on his complaint, the police arrested Kanani, who has since retired, and Pandya for criminal breach of trust by public servant, forgery, criminal conspiracy, among others. Subsequently, police arrested Bharat Rathod, president of Malaniya village labourers cooperative society, and Ganpat Rathod, who was looking after the cooperative society, on October 5. Police said that the cooperative society was one of the societies which had been awarded the repair work.
All the four accused are currently in judicial custody.
Following the arrest of Sabariya, a first time MLA, Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi said: “Does the state government act on any issue which is raised on the floor of the House?… Sabariya has been targeted by the police as BJP bigwigs in Morbi are involved in the scam.”