CBI to probe Sachin Pilot and other Cong leaders in ambulance scam
- A company called Ziqitza Health Care is alleged to have embezzled money from the government
- Ziqitza was in charge of running the government\'s ambulance-on-call programme
- At the behest of BJP MP Kirit Somaiya, the UPA govt ordered an inquiry
- The probe was then conducted by Rajasthan Police\'s CID Crime Branch
- It has now been handed over to the CBI at the insistence of the Vasundhara Raje-led Rajasthan govt
The alleged connection
- CBI\'s FIR mentions former CM Ashok Gehlot and health minister AA Khan
- Sachin Pilot, P Chidambaram\'s son Karti and Vyalar Ravi\'s son Ravi Krishna were directors of Ziqitza
It seems to be payback time for Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje after she and her son had faced the heat in the Lalit Modi scandal.
A host of Congress leaders are now under the CBI scanner for an alleged ambulance scam, which is said to have taken place during Rajasthan's previous Congress government.
Congress leaders allegedly involved
The investigating agency took over the case on 28 August, and in its FIR, named former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and AA Khan, who was the health minister in his government.
The FIR also mentions Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee chief Sachin Pilot, former Union minister P Chidambaram's son Karti Chidambaram, and Congress MP Vayalar Ravi's son, Ravi Krishna.
They were all allegedly directors of Ziqitza Health Care Ltd at the time when the irregularities took place.
Others accused in the FIR are Sweta Mangal, then-CEO of Ziqitza Health Care Ltd, and Shaffi Mather, a former economic advisor to Kerala CM Oommen Chandy and former director of the National Rural Health Mission.
"The FIR was registered against the then-directors of the private firm at Mumbai/Jaipur and others, including public servants, under section 420 (cheating), 467 (forgery), 468, 471 and 120-B of the IPC on the allegations of irregularities in the award of tender in favour of the said firm," a CBI spokesperson was quoted as saying.
The CBI searched the offices of Ziqitza Health Care Ltd in Mumbai and Jaipur after registering the FIR.
Scope and history of the scam
It is alleged that rules were twisted to favour Ziqitza Health Care Ltd in the tender process for providing ambulances to the state's '108' service. The FIR also states that the excessive bills claimed by the said firm were paid by the government.
According to the BJP, this was deliberately done as the company had many powerful Congress connections.
Raje had promised an investigation of the scam ahead of the 2013 assembly elections.
The Rajasthan government had asked for a CBI probe in the scam last year. It was earlier being investigated by the Rajasthan Police's CID Crime Branch.
Raje had set up an ambulance service during her previous tenure as CM. The idea was to give patients free and quick access to ambulances by giving one call on the number 108.
The contract for running the service was given to a Hyderabad-based firm, Emergency and Management Research Institute (EMRI).
Ex-CM Ashok Gehlot and sons of senior leaders P Chidambaram and Vayalar Ravi have also been named in CBI's FIR
However, when Gehlot became chief minister, he found alleged bungling in the services and called for fresh tenders.
The BJP claims several conditions, like mandatory GPS in the ambulances, were put in place to favour Ziqitza Health Care. This made the company the sole bidder for plying 450 ambulances in 35 districts.
The matter was first brought to light by BJP leader Kirit Somaiya. He even met former Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad in this regard.
A CAG audit, subsequently ordered by Azad, could not corroborate the loss of Rs 2.56 crore cited earlier, but it confirmed irregularities in the processing of the contract.
The BJP has also alleged that the Gehlot government passed excessive bills submitted by Ziqitza Health Care.
The company is said to have shown different visits by ambulances for the same patient. In some cases, ambulances were shown to have reached the patients even before the call was made.
Not only that, Ziqitza Health Care is also accused of buying equipment that was not necessary and faking bills for courier facilities.
Later, the company sold 60% shares to two foreign companies in a non-transparent manner, if the BJP is to be believed.
When the Vasundhara government returned to power, it cancelled Ziqitza's contract and gave it back to EMRI.
Former Jaipur mayor Pankaj Joshi filed a complaint with the Jaipur police in July 2013. After investigations, the police filed an FIR, naming Ashok Gehlot, Sachin Pilot, AA Khan and Karti Chidambaram among others.
The matter was handed over to the state CID CB in June 2014.
Congress alleges vendetta
The Congress, on its part, is alleging vendetta and misuse of power by the government.
"The pain of Lalitgate is clearly visible in the FIR registered by the Rajasthan Government. To defend herself, Raje is attacking other people. She wants to prove that she and her son are not corrupt, but that Congress leaders are corrupt," media reports quoted Congress leader Meem Afzal as saying.
Pilot claims he had parted ways with Ziqitza Health Care long ago.
"Ziqitza Health Care had requested me to be their brand ambassador in 2001. I agreed as it was a noble cause and my father had also died in a road accident. However, when the company expanded itself into a profit making venture in 2002, I severed all ties with it," said Pilot.
Gehlot also reacted angrily. "The Chief Minister wants to divert attention from serious charges against her. Let her initiate a CBI enquiry to probe allegations against her and son Dushyant Singh," he said.