Express News Service
JAIPUR: The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has arrested two senior officials of the Rajasthan Skill and Livelihood Development Corporation (RSLDC) for taking a bribe of Rs five lakh to clear pending bills worth Rs 1.5 crore of a private company. In the centre of this controversy is senior IAS officer Neeraj K Pawan, the chairman of the RSLDC who has been named in several graft scandals and has also spent nearly nine months in jail back five years ago.
In the latest case, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has not only arrested two officials of the RSLDC but has also seized the mobile phones of Pawan and chief manager Pradeep Gawande. The ACB has also sealed nine offices of RSLDC.
Chairman of RSLDC Neeraj K PawanAccording to the ACB Director General of Police (DGP) BL Soni, the two arrested officials Ashok Sangwan, scheme coordinator, and Rahul Kumar Garg, manager, were caught red-handed while taking a bribe of Rs 5 lakh from the complainant to clear pending bills, totalling 1.5 crores. The bribe was sought in exchange for an offer to clear payment to the firm for work under the skill development scheme, refund of the security amount deposited, and for removing the firm from the black list, said DGP BL Soni.
Neeraj K Pawan was reportedly on the way to Jodhpur when ACB officials caught up with him and seized his two phones to find out his involvement in the bribery case. Shockingly, Pawan had allegedly deleted some of his WhatsApp chats before handing over his phones. ACB officials say that they will try to recover the deleted chats in their probe. Further investigation is underway and more arrests are likely to take place. This is not the first time that Neeraj K Pawan has been involved in a corruption scandal. In 2016, he was arrested by the ACB in connection with a bribery scam worth crores in the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). Pawan was allegedly a part of the racket run by a middleman called Ajit Soni who used to get tenders awarded in the Information and Education Department of the Health Ministry in lieu of huge bribes.
These bribes would then be proportionately shared by officers in the department. The scam took place when Pawan was posted as the Additional Mission Director in the state’s national health mission. Pawan had to spend several months in jail in this case and got off after there was no Prosecution sanction given against him. Though he was suspended, the Rajasthan government eventually reinstated Pawan who was accused of taking a Rs 1.5 crore bribe in this NRHM scam.
An IAS officer of 2003-batch, Pawan had recently figured in another scandal in which Jaipur’s suspended Mayor Somya Gurjar’s husband, Raja Ram was allegedly involved in seeking bribes for the release of pending payment of Rs 276 crores to BVG company involved in garbage collection in the Jaipur Greater Municipal Corporation. The case had erupted in June this year.
In one of the audios about this case, which went viral on social media, the name of Neeraj K Pawan was also mentioned. In the audio clip, the Mayor’s husband, Raja Ram is heard telling BVG manager Sandeep Choudhary to meet him at “the home of Neeraj K Pawan in NRI colony” in Jaipur. Pawan is said to have a close connection with Raja Ram who is now in jail.
In another case in June this year, Pawan was accused of demanding huge bribes in a case involving a nursing college in Ajmer. At this time, Pawan was heading the Cooperatives Department. The college director, Mahesh Sharma, had alleged that during Pawan’s posting in the cooperative department, five officials had demanded crores of rupees in bribe. Interestingly, in this case, too, Pawan was said to be allegedly running a racket in league with Raja Ram, the husband of Jaipur’s suspended mayor Soumya Gurjar.
With his name figuring prominently in the RSLDC bribery scam, all eyes in Rajasthan are now fixed on how the ACB will finally proceed against Neeraj K Pawan, easily the most talked-about IAS officer in Rajasthan.