IANS

Under a dark cloud for misconduct, a Maharashtra cadre IAS Probationary Officer (IAS-PO) Pooja Dilip Khedkar took charge of her new assignment as Assistant Collector at the Washim Collectorate, here on Thursday. 

The development came three days after she got the marching orders from the Pune Collectorate following an adverse report on her bizarre behaviour, demands not befitting her current status as an IAS-PO, ‘grabbing’ a senior government servant’s office, plus questions raised about her OBC-Creamy Layer caste credentials.

In a brief interaction with the media in Washim, Pooja Khedkar, 31, appeared unruffled by the barrage of allegations against her and said she “is not permitted to speak anything” in the matter.

Ranking 841 in the 2023 UPSC list of successful candidates, Khedkar was posted at the Pune Collectorate as a Probationary Assistant Collector in March 2023 for two years -- which itself was billed as an irregularity since an IAS officer’s first assignment is usually not in his/her hometown.

In the recent past, a Pune RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar made a series of exposes against the ‘aristocratic’ Pooja Khedkar, her father Dilip K. Khedkar, a retired state government officer, their wealth, alleged questionable documents and reports that they had threatened senior officials with dire consequences if they failed to extend official privileges that were beyond her entitlements.

Ostensibly having a penchant for flaunting her status, connections and wealth plus name-dropping, Khedkar zoomed around in her personal high-end Audi A4 on which she had unauthorisedly installed a red-blue flashing beacon light, a ‘Maharashtra Government’ sticker and got a VIP registration number allegedly with the help of an outside contractor.

She demanded -- or helped herself to -- other things that are beyond the reach of IAS-POs, ‘taking over’ an office of a Resident Deputy Collector in the Pune Collectorate, ordering the revenue assistant to provide her with a letterhead, business cards, name-plate, the Indian insignia, intercoms and other paraphernalia.

As murmurs and complaints against her mounted, last month the Pune Collector, Suhas Diwase shot off a letter to the Chief Secretary, highlighting all the alleged irregularities perpetrated by Khedkar that finally led to her transfer to Washim on June 8.

The RTI activist Kumbhar has cited official records to show that Khedkar’s parents with an OBC non-creamy layer certificate, possess huge assets either singly, or jointly in different parts of the state, and her father Dilip K. Khedkar had contested the Lok Sabha 2024 elections as a Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi nominee but trailed in the fourth position.

The family wealth includes 110 acres of land violating the Agricultural Land Ceiling Act, six commercial premises of 1.6 lakhs sq. feet, seven flats including in the post-Hiranandani Complex in Powai (Mumbai), around one kg of gold jewellery, diamonds, multiple bank accounts, a gold watch worth Rs 17 lakh, and a Rado watch worth Rs 60,000, at least three cars of foreign make and one India, partnerships/ownerships in three companies, and Pooja Khedkar has also property allegedly worth Rs 17 crore, according to Kumbhar.

As the issue snowballed into a major topic of debate on social media, Pune Commissioner of Police Amitesh Kumar has assured of action against Pooja Khedkar for flouting the laws pertaining to the use of beacon and Maharashtra government insignia on her private vehicle.

(Except for the headline, this story, from a syndicated feed, has not been edited by Odishatv.in staff)

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