NRHM bribery case: IAS officer, 4 others bookedhttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/rajasthan-jaipur-nrhm-bribery-case-ias-officer-4-others-booked-2807684/

NRHM bribery case: IAS officer, 4 others booked

This is ACB’s second big move after it arrested another IAS officer last year

The last time IAS officer Niraj Kumar Pawan hit the headlines, it was for stopping by on his way to work to help a road accident victim. This time, the reason is not so noble.

The Rajasthan Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Wednesday booked Pawan and four others for receiving bribes to manipulate work orders under National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).

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After vetting for six months a complaint it received last December, ACB raided the residence and offices of Pawan, two other officials and a middleman Wednesday morning.

IAS officer Pawan, presently Commissioner, Agriculture department, allegedly received bribes worth crores when he was Director, NRHM-IEC, through a middleman Ajit Soni.

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Two other officials, Additional Director Anil Agarwal and Chief Accounts Officer Deepa Gupta, and department store keeper Josy Varghese were also allegedly part of this “racket which continued for at least a year and a half”.

The five accused have been booked under relevant sections of Prevention of Corruption Act.

“Pawan continued to be involved in this racket even after he was transferred,” an ACB source told The Indian Express.

Soni, the middleman, was at the centre of the scam while Varghese handled the bribes and “took care of the daily, minor expenses of the officials involved”.

“Soni had virtually become the Single Window Clearance for all work orders under NRHM,” he said. According to officials, Agarwal advised Soni to identify firms interested in working under NRHM and sign consultancy agreements with them.

“With that, from being an outside middleman, Soni formally became a part of the system as a consultant. The bribes were paid to him as consultancy fees, which were subsequently divided among the others, including Pawan,” V K Singh, ACB Inspector General, said.

“If any firm did not pay commission, Soni would use his influence among higher officials to stop payments,” he said, adding that Pawan allegedly cleared hindrances at the directorate level, including issuing NOCs and removing bureaucratic hurdles.

The complainant businessman was allegedly part of the racket, but later fell out when the main players started distrusting him. The complainant received work orders worth Rs 7 crore over 18 months, for which he paid 17 per cent or Rs 1.5 crore as “commission”, ACB officials alleged.

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The ACB recovered US $4100 and other foreign currency, a Honda sedan and a scooter from Pawan’s residence. These were allegedly bought with the “commission”. The ACB have detained Soni but had not acted against Pawan at the time of writing this report. Pawan could not be reached despite repeated attempts. This is the second major move by the ACB after it arrested IAS officer Ashok Singhvi last year in September. Singhvi was released on bail last month.