Inquiry confirms allegations against BJD MLA who forced engineer to do sit-ups

The inquiry was launched after a video showing Patnagarh MLA Saroj Kumar Meher forcing the engineer to do sit-ups in public.

Bhubaneswar: An administrative inquiry has confirmed allegations against a newly elected BJD MLA that he "manhandled" and "insulted" a junior PWD engineer, a senior official said on Monday.

The inquiry was launched after a video showing Patnagarh MLA Saroj Kumar Meher forcing the engineer to do sit-ups in public in Bolangir district went viral last week. The district collector had sought a report on the incident.

Patnagarh sub-collector had been tasked with probing the incident. "I have received a report from Patnagarh sub-collector confirming the incident and allegations of manhandling and insult of the junior engineer," Bolangir District Collector Arindam Dakua said.

The district administration will send the report to the state government and recommend action against all those involved in the incident, he said. "It is for the government to take further steps," he added.

A case had been registered against Meher at Patnagarh police station on Friday, a day after a complaint was lodged by the wife of the engineer, Jayakant Sabar. Meher was booked under different sections of the Indian Penal Code and the SC/ ST Act, a police officer said.

"An investigation is in progress and appropriate steps will be taken in due course," he said.

The legislator's action had triggered a row with the opposition BJP targeting the ruling BJD government and demanding immediate Meher's arrest. The Congress also condemned the incident and sought action against the MLA.

Meher later apologised for his action and said he was compelled to ask the engineer to do sit-ups to assauge public anger.

He claimed that the people in his constituency were angry over poor quality of road construction and "could have harmed" the engineer if he did not ask him to do sit-ups. The family members and relatives of the engineer have demanded immediate arrest of Meher and stringent action against him for his "high-handedness".

Bolangir District Adivasi Manch and Odisha Diploma Engineers' Service Association (ODESA) have also demanded stern action against the legislator.

"The association condemns the act and demands that legal action be taken against him (Meher) immediately," a leader of ODESA said.

Meher had on June 5 visited the Belpada block in Bolangir, where local people complained about the poor construction of the Mandal-Belpada bypass.

In the video clip, the engineer is seen apologising for alleged laxity in performing his duties, but Meher does not relent. The MLA allegedly threatened the engineer with "mob thrashing", following which the latter did sit-ups on the road.

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