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Who is Dr. Pooja Khedkar and why is she facing allegations of misconduct?

Who is Dr. Pooja Khedkar and why is she facing allegations of misconduct?

Controversy continues to swirl around Dr. Pooja Khedkar, a probationary IAS officer recently transferred from Pune to Washim. Allegations have emerged concerning her eligibility for Other Backward Class (OBC) benefits and disability concessions, adding to the existing complaints about her conduct.

Dr. Khedkar gained attention following reports of her demands for a separate office, an official car, and the unauthorized use of a beacon on her private vehicle. Earlier this month, Pune District Collector Suhas Diwase sent a report to the state government highlighting "objectionable behavior" by Dr. Khedkar and her father. Hailing from a bureaucratic and political family in Ahmednagar district, Dr. Khedkar's father, Diliprao Khedkar, is a retired officer of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board and an active politician. He ran for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections as a candidate of the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, while her mother serves as the sarpanch of their village.

Dr. Khedkar completed her MBBS and attempted the UPSC exams multiple times, securing a position in the Indian Revenue Service (IRS) in 2019. In a mock interview video, she mentioned her inability to join the IRS due to issues with her OBC allocation. She later joined the Sports Authority of India as an assistant director in November 2021. In the 2021 Civil Services Examination, she secured the 821st rank but faced legal challenges regarding her disability claims. A Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) order from February 2023 required Dr. Khedkar to undergo a medical examination at AIIMS, New Delhi. She postponed the initial appointment due to contracting COVID-19, rescheduling it to August 2023. Despite repeated attempts by AIIMS officials to contact her, the visual disability assessment could not be completed. She later submitted an MRI report from a private facility supporting her disability claims.

Concerns have also been raised about Dr. Khedkar’s OBC (non-creamy layer) status. Social activists, including Pune-based Vijay Kumbhar, have pointed to her father’s election affidavit, which details significant family assets, suggesting she does not qualify for the non-creamy layer category. While Dr. Khedkar has refrained from commenting publicly about her family, she addressed a question regarding her income in a mock interview, stating that she did not show any income because she lived with her mother, who was divorced from her father. However, her father’s election affidavit does not mention any family estrangement.

Dr. Khedkar joined the Pune District Collectorate for training on June 3. According to Collector Diwase’s report, her demands for facilities began even before her training started. She allegedly occupied an additional collector's chamber without permission and requested office supplies and a nameplate for the room. When the chamber was restored, she reportedly sent a message to Diwase, comparing her situation to other probationary officers who were provided with chambers and vehicles. The report also mentioned that Dr. Khedkar's father threatened a tehsildar over the phone, accusing officials of harassing his daughter. Diwase's report emphasized that previous probationary officers had not made similar demands and described Dr. Khedkar’s expectations as unrealistic and entitled. Despite personal counseling from the collector, Dr. Khedkar’s conduct continued to be deemed inappropriate for an administrative officer. The report recommended punitive action against her father for his conduct.

Collector Diwase was unavailable for comment on the matter.

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