M A I N   N E W S

Sainik Welfare Officer caught accepting bribe
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, April 27
All-India Anti-Terrorist Front chief Maninderjit Singh Bitta along with a private TV channel carried out a sting operation and caught the local District Sainik Welfare Officer red-handed while accepting a bribe of Rs 20,000 for handing over an aid to a Kargil martyr’s brother.

According to Mr Bitta, the Punjab Government had announced an aid of Rs 2 lakh for parents of Sq Ldr Ajay Ahuja, who laid down his life for the country during the Kargil war six years ago. He was awarded Vir Chakra posthumously. Mr Bitta said the martyr’s brother, Mr Vijay Ahuja, approached him when the District Sainik Welfare Officer, Lt Col S.P. Singh (rtd), demanded a bribe for sanctioning the aid. Mr Bitta asked Mr Ahuja to remain in contact with the officer and tapped his three phone calls. The sting operation reached its decisive stage today when Mr Ahuja reached the District Sainik Welfare Office to receive the aid and handover the bribe to Col S.P. Singh. The officer gave him two demand drafts of Rs 1 lakh each issued from the State Bank of Patiala, Bathinda, bearing Nos. 687300 and 687299. After receiving the drafts Mr Ahuja handed over Rs 20,000 in cash to the Colonel and promised to pay the rest in the evening. Mr Bitta said a private TV channel had recorded the meeting that took place between Vijay and the officer. The drafts were in the name of Mr Ahuja’s parents, Purshottam Lal Ahuja and Shyama Ahuja.

The drafts were issued on March 16, while the officer kept bargaining for the bribe till April 15 on the pretext that drafts were not ready. The officer, however, told Mr Ahuja that he could speed up the process once he was paid the bribe money. Mr Bitta said the money came from his organizational fund and they had a list carrying numbers of the currency notes. The numbers of notes recovered from the officer matched with those on his list.

Mr Ahuja told mediapersons that he had talked to the officer regarding the aid thrice this month. “When he first demanded the bribe from me I simply denied it. Later, I took up the matter with Mr Bitta, who asked me to go ahead and bargain with him,” he added. Mr Ahuja said the officer asked him on phone as to how much bribe I could pay. “When I said 10 per cent the officer added that he was expecting 25 per cent, but could settle for 20 per cent”. Finally the deal was struck and I agreed to pay 20 per cent.

Mr Ahuja said his brother, Sq Ldr Ajay Ahuja, achieved martyrdom on May 27, 1999, when he was carrying out search operation for Flt Lieut Nachiketa, who had gone missing. His aircraft was hit by a surface-to-air missile. Though he escaped with the help of a parachute, he was later shot dead by terrorists. Martyr Ajay Ahuja’s family stays in Kota. His brother had come to the city today for this sting operation.


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