Devbrat Patnaik

Berhampur: Whose doors will the citizens knock if the ones at the grievance redressal forum considered saviours are themselves mired in corruption? In a shocking incident reported from Ganjam district, Assistant Collector and grievance cell in-charge Banamali Satapathy has been accused of taking bribe of Rs 2.20 lakh from a woman reportedly to facilitate transfer of ownership of a shop.

The allegation brought by one Siprarani Jena of Aska - the constituency of CM Naveen Patnaik - has put the accused senior government official in a tight spot now.

Sipra alleged that after her father passed away, she wanted to transfer ownership of his medical shop and renew it in her mother's name, for which Satapathy took Rs 2.2 lakh bribe.

Despite having taken the money, the official did not carry out required procedures and the work remained pending. Sipra was forced to seek return of the money paid to him. While Satapathy has so far returned Rs 1.70 lakh, an argument erupted between Sipra and Satapathy over refund of the remaining amount, a video of which has also gone viral.

Sipra finally apprised the matter to Ganjam district Collector for necessary action. "When I reached the grievance cell, I came in contact with Banamali Satapathy. He told me that the District Development Committee (DDC) has demanded Rs 2 lakh for the purpose. What I've realised is that he did not credit the amount to DDC, which is why DDC kept on rejecting my request in spite of submission of all documents. Finally, when I informed this to the Collector, he asked me to file an appeal before the State health department in Bhubaneswar. In the meantime, I got back Rs 1.70 lakh from Satapathy. An argument erupted again over return of rest of the amount. I was harassed," said Sipra.

To uphold the State's policy of zero tolerance towards corruption and corrupt activities, Collector Vijay Amruta Kulange has requested the government to give compulsory retirement to the accused official.

Kulange has also ordered a departmental enquiry against him apart from ordering a Vigilance probe to find the veracity of the allegations made.

"We had called the party to discuss in this regard. There is no official evidence of payment of money, but the allegations are grave. We have written to the government to weed him out by giving premature retirement. We are also going to take disciplinary action against him," Kulange said.