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CM Amarinder orders probe into Dalit scholarship scam after secretary indicts Punjab minister

Punjab Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan will probe the alleged involvement of Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot in Rs 64-cr Dalit scholarship scam.

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Chandigarh: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh Saturday ordered a thorough probe into the alleged involvement of a state cabinet minister in the Rs 64-crore Dalit scholarship scam that has caused a political controversy.

In his statement, Singh said nobody found guilty of complicity in the scholarship scam would be spared.

Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan will look into all aspects of the case, and anyone found involved, irrespective of the person’s position within or outside the government, would be penalised and punished in accordance with the legal provisions, said the chief minister.

“The special report submitted by the additional chief secretary has been sent to the chief secretary for verification of facts. The chief secretary has also been asked to suggest suitable action in the matter. Response from her is expected in the coming few days,” Suresh Kumar, Chief Principal Secretary to the CM, told ThePrint.

The move came five days after Additional Chief Secretary Kirpa Shankar Saroj submitted a scathing report, indicting Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot for allegedly misappropriating post-Matric scholarship funds meant for Dalit students.

This has caused a furore, with opposition parties including AAP and BJP demanding his removal.

The post-Matric scholarship for Scheduled Castes students is a Government of India scheme under which Dalit students engaged in higher studies are reimbursed their fees and given a maintenance allowance. The scholarship is routed through the state government and private colleges where the students are studying.


Also read: Punjab Police arrests father-son duo running ‘pharma drug cartel’ in India


What the report says

In the 54-page report, Saroj, Principal Secretary, Social Justice and Empowerment, detailed the manner in which his minister allegedly embezzled part of the funds the department received, and gave undue benefits to private colleges, arbitrarily releasing them the scholarship funds in collaboration with a deputy director of the department.

According to the report, accessed by ThePrint, the Directorate of Social Justice in Punjab received Rs 303 crore from the Centre for disbursal among colleges between February and March 2019. The department withdrew Rs 248 crore for disbursal. Of this, records pertaining to Rs 39 crore are missing.

“Either this sum has been embezzled or paid to some ghost institutions,” the report said.

Moreover, in order to facilitate certain colleges, Rs 72 crore was deliberately withheld by the directorate instead of distributing it among the deserving students, many of whom graduated waiting to be reimbursed their fees and maintenance allowance, the report said.

Nearly Rs 17 crore was paid to institutions against which the Punjab finance department had recommended recovery of Rs 8 crore following a special audit of the scholarship scheme, thus costing the exchequer Rs 25 crore.

The report added that in order to get around the finance department’s audit recommendations of recovery from these colleges, the directorate formed its own teams to audit institutes that were already audited.

“The re-audit teams corrected/got corrected the records of some institute by even forging the signatures of the students… The efforts of every official was to favour the private institutions,” said the report.

A senior officer involved in the probe said, “It is a scam to cover another scam… The private colleges were doubly benefitted. First, the crores that they owed to the government was written off and then they were given additional grants, which they did not deserve.”

On Friday, Union Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot told reporters that his government too would look into the allegations made in the report.


Also read: 2 Congress MLAs test Covid positive after 1-day Punjab Assembly session, CM in quarantine


 

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