Bhubaneswar: High on the landslide victory of Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha’s Assembly polls last month, a newly elected MLA of the regional party courted controversy for forcing a government engineer to do sit-ups in full public view for poor quality of roads in the area.
First-time BJD legislator Saroj Meher was caught on camera asking Jaswant Sabar, a junior engineer of the public works department (PWD), to do “one hundred sit-ups in five minutes” and the hapless engineer doing sit-ups even as hundreds of people watch the act.
Meher, the MLA of Patnagarh constituency in Bolangir district, sought an apology for his conduct after video clips of the incident went viral on the social media and drew widespread condemnation.
The MLA was on a visit to his constituency two days ago and had reportedly received complaints about poor quality of roads in Belpada area. He visited the area with a group of his supporters and asked the junior engineer to be present there.
“Do sit-ups here a hundred times… It is my order. You will be thrashed badly by the people unless you do a hundred sit-ups in five minutes,” Meher was heard saying. As all requests by the junior engineer to be spared of such humiliation in public fell to deaf ears, he did a few sit-ups in front of the MLA and his supporters.
Meher, who defeated BJP strongman and former minister Kanak Vardhan Singhdeo in the polls, apologized for his act. “I had received several complaints from the people about the poor quality of road work in this area. The angry people were going to attack the engineer. What I did was an attempt to control the situation. I feel sorry for my action,” said Meher.
Bolangir district magistrate Arindam Dakua ordered a probe into the incident. Sources said police obtained a copy of the video clip and started an investigation.
“Strong action should be taken against the MLA for carrying out a kangaroo court. Such acts by an elected representative is highly condemnable,” said senior Congress leader Narasingha Mishra.
Singhdeo said: “Nobody has the right to take the law into their own hands. It is time the government of the state introspected about the kind of people who were allotted tickets and ended up getting elected”.