Chandigarh: Five weeks after Punjab additional chief secretary Kirpa Shankar Saroj indicted cabinet minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot in a multi-crore Dalit scholarship scam, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has shunted the official out of the department of social welfare and posted him as additional chief secretary, animal husbandry and fisheries.
However, despite IAS officer Saroj’s scathing report to the Chief Minister’s Office and Punjab’s chief secretary on 25 August, no action has been initiated against minister Dharamsot, who is said to be close to the CM.
Dalit groups and opposition parties have hit out at the Congress government for transferring the IAS officer, calling it the “first step” towards giving Dharamsot a clean chit.
In his report, Saroj had indicted Dharamsot and some other officers for causing a loss of Rs 63.9 crore to the exchequer in the distribution of the scholarships to private technical colleges in Punjab. The report stated that under the post-matric scholarship scheme, the Government of India sent Rs 303 crore to Punjab in February-March 2019.
“Though the directorate of social justice withdrew Rs 248 crore from the treasury, the department distributed this sum in an arbitrary manner. Significantly, records pertaining to Rs 39 crore are missing. Either this sum has been embezzled or paid to some ghost institutions,” the report stated.
Amarinder, who had promised action against everyone found guilty, has, instead, asked Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan to verify the contents of Saroj’s 54-page report. Mahajan, on her part, has created a three-member panel of IAS officers — Jaspal Singh, K.A.P. Sinha and Vivek Partap Singh — to hold an inquiry. Since then, there has been no movement in the case for over a month.
Chief Secretary Mahajan did not respond to ThePrint’s phone calls and text messages asking for the current status of the inquiry.
‘First step towards safe passage for minister’
Paramjit Singh Kainth, president of the National Scheduled Castes Alliance, alleged that Saroj’s transfer was the “first move to give safe passage to the minister”. In a statement issued Tuesday, Kainth said instead of taking action against Dharamsot, CM Amarinder had acted against the bureaucrat who had highlighted the scam.
Sukhbir Singh Badal, former Punjab deputy CM and president of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), also said Tuesday that the CM was “sprinkling salt on the wounds of Dalit students” by transferring IAS officer Saroj.
“It is shameful that the whistleblower in the case, who had indicted the minister, has been sidelined. This proves that the Congress government is anti-Dalit. It would rather protect its corrupt minister than provide justice to Dalit students who are suffering because the money due to them was looted by the minister and his gang,” Badal said.
Badal’s SAD and the Aam Aadmi Party had demanded a CBI probe into Saroj’s report when it came to light. Amarinder, while promising action, had termed the AAP a rogue party, saying he would not respond a “trial” of his minister by opposition parties.
A similar case in Haryana
Saroj’s transfer is comparable to that of Haryana IAS officer Sanjeev Verma in June last year. Verma, as director and special secretary of the Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes Department, blew the lid off a post-matric SC scholarship scam in his state. Verma was transferred to the archives department.
During his investigation into the scam, Verma had threatened to sit on dharna outside the Chandigarh Police headquarters, in order to get an FIR registered in the case.