A day after a newly elected Biju Janata Dal’s (BJD) Patnagarh MLA, Saroj Kumar Meher, drew flak for forcing a junior PWD engineer to do sit-ups in public view, the Odisha police have lodged a case against the lawmaker. Meanwhile, the junior engineer Friday claimed the Saroj Kumar Meher had even asked an executive engineer to slap him.
After the incident, the engineer’s wife lodged a police complaint against Meher accusing him of publicly humiliating her husband on Wednesday. The family and relatives of the junior engineer demanded immediate arrest and strict action against the lawmaker for his “highhandedness”. The Bolangir District Adivasi Manch has also demanded immediate arrest of the lawmaker.
“We have registered a case against the MLA at Patnagarh Police Station after proper verification. The case has been registered under different sections of the IPC and SC, ST Atrocity Act,” Sub-Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) of Patnagarh Suresh Nayak told PTI.
Asked about the allegation of the kidnapping of the junior engineer, the SDPO said, “We have traced him and handed him over to his family. He was located at a place between Kantabanji and Khariar. He had gone there with friends and was not kidnapped as alleged by the wife.”
In a purported video, which went viral on social media, Meher was seen reprimanding the engineer over alleged shoddy road construction work in his constituency in Belpada block in Bolangir district and asking him to do 100 sit-ups in the middle of the road.
Meher, however, asserted that he was forced to take such a step to pacify the angry public which could have harmed the engineer if he did not do anything. “I am sorry for the incident. But, I was compelled to ask the engineer to do sit-ups in the wake of public resentment. People were angry over the poor quality of road construction and they could have harmed the engineer if I did not ask him to do sit-ups,” Meher told reporters in Bolangir.
“The situation was not under my control as the angry people demanded punishment for the erring engineer,” he said.
Meher’s action drew a lot of criticism in the political arena. BJP came down heavily on the BJD government and demanded immediate arrest of the lawmaker while the Congress condemned the incident.
BJP’s Odisha unit secretary Lekhasri Samantasinghar hit out at Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for being silent on the episode.
When the matter was brought to the attention of the District Magistrate, Arindam Dakua, he too criticised the MLA. DM promised action against the lawmaker after Patnagarh sub-collector filed a report on the incident.