Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann on May 24 took to social media to inform about the dismissal of his health minister, Dr Vijay Singla on corruption charges. His five-minute address left nobody in doubt that his AAP government has a zero tolerance against corruption,. A report by Rajesh Moudgil
Punjab health minister Dr Vijay Singla was arrested on May 24 by the state’s anti-corruption bureau (ACB) shortly after chief minister Bhagwant Mann sacked him from his Cabinet over corruption charges and handed over the case to the police.
Besides Singla, his officer on special duty (OSD) and nephew Pradeep Kumar was also arrested under Sections 7 and 8 of the prevention of corruption Act registered on the complaint of Rajinder Singh, superintending engineer (SE), Punjab Health Systems Corporation. The accused were later in the day produced before a Mohali court where they were sent to three-day police remand till May 27.
Conspicuously enough, Mann himself took to social media through his 5-minute video message to convey the information about the dismissal of Singla from his Cabinet on corruption charges after he was reportedly found seeking 1% cut in tenders allotment and purchase of goods related to the department on an audiotape.
Mann said in his video address that since he alone was in the know throughout the case, he could have covered it up if he wished so. However, he said, by hushing up the matter, he would have not only failed his own conscience but also betrayed lakhs of people who trusted him. Mann underlined his party’s resolve of giving an honest governance and zero-tolerance to corruption.
Mann went on say that it is for the second time in the history of the country that an action had been taken by a government against its own minister on corruption charges. He held that it was first time when Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal who had sacked his own food and civil supplies minister in 2015 after a video of him seeking a bribe was shown to him. Reiterating that he would not tolerate the corruption of even Re 1, Mann recalled his government’s pledge at martyr Bhagat Singh’s village Khatkar Kalan to give a corruption-free governance.
Interestingly, Mann had also pre-empted criticism by the Opposition parties, hence he said he knew the opposition parties would say that AAP’s minister was found involved in corruption within two months of forming the government, but, he wanted to tell them that he had taken an action whereas the chief ministers of other parties had themselves said that that they knew their ministers were engaged in the mafia and yet they did not take any action against them.
Audio clip did accused in
Meanwhile, according to information, the audio clip in which Singla and his OSD (his nephew) Pradeep Kumar are reportedly talking about Rs 5 lakh bribe from the SE, recorded by the SE (also the complainant) did them in.
The complainant SE said in the FIR that he was approached by the minister’s OSD Pradeep Kumar and asked to meet the minister in Punjab Bhawan last month. During the meeting, says the FIR, the minister asked the SE to take instructions from the OSD following which the OSD told the SE that latter had allotted works worth Rs 41 crore and paid Rs 17 crore to various contractors in March. He also demanded Rs 1.16 crore (2%) commission from the SE.
The complainant held that shocked by such demand he told the minister that he could not pay such a huge amount but the minister insisted for the commission. Upon this, Pradeep Kumar repeatedly called up the SE earlier this month asking for the commission and threatening that else he would ruin his career.
At this point of time, the SE expressed his helplessness and requested the minister to shift him anywhere and bring any other engineer who could fulfil the said demand. The SE held that he was then asked to give Rs 10 lakh for the works he had already got executed and 1 % of the works he would carry out in future. The SE held further that the final deal, however, was struck for Rs 5 lakh. On May 23, Pradeep Kumar called the SE to minister’s office in the Punjab civil secretariat where Singla is reportedly heard on the audio clip asking the SE to give the money to his OSD.
Singla who is a dentist by profession and runs a dental clinic in the Mansa city is an MLA from Mansa. He had joined AAP about seven years ago and had also headed the traders’ wing of the party. He had polled highest number of votes in the state giving a sound beating to the Congress candidate Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu, popular as singer Sidhu Moosewala.
KUDOS TO MANN
Meanwhile, lauding Mann’s action, AAP supremo and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal said on Twitter: “Proud of you Bhagwant. Ur action has brought tears to my eyes. The whole nation today feels proud of AAP.”
AAP leader Raghav Chadha also lauded Mann and said that AAP was the only party that had the integrity, courage and uprightness to take action against their own on grounds of corruption. We saw it in Delhi, now we are witnessing it in Punjab. Zero tolerance for corruption.
OPPN TAKES SWIPE AT AAP
Meanwhile, the state Congress chief Amarinder Singh Raja Warring said that the Congress stood vindicated by no less a person than CM Mann himself revealing corruption by one of his ministers.
Likewise, the BJP state president Ashwani Sharma said that the AAP stood exposed. The party which claimed corruption would be wiped out in 10 days has fallen flat in 80 days, he added.