Chandigarh: Former leader of the opposition in Punjab, Sukhpal Singh Khaira, Sunday sought a judicial probe into the alleged Dalit scholarship scam in the state, citing details from an analysis by ThePrint of two reports related to the matter. While one of the two reports had sought to indict minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot in the alleged scam, the other gave him a clean chit.
In a letter to Punjab Governor V.P.S. Badnore, the Bholath MLA said the investigation should be conducted by a sitting judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
The scam is centred on allegations that crores of central funds meant to finance education above Class 10 for Dalits in the state were disbursed to “ghost colleges”, and distributed among institutes from which the government had to make recoveries for wrong and excessive payments made earlier.
The alleged scam was brought to light in August by the then principal secretary, social welfare, Kirpa Shankar Saroj, whose report also sought to indict Social Welfare Minister Dharamsot. Saroj has since been transferred to the animal husbandry department.
Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh subsequently tasked Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan with looking into the allegations. In her 18-page report, submitted last month, Mahajan absolved the minister of all allegations while holding some government officials responsible. Her report was based on the findings of a three-member panel she had set up to look into the allegations.
However, when ThePrint analysed the reports furnished by Saroj and Mahajan, it discovered that the latter appeared to have ignored incriminating evidence and contravention of standard administrative practices in the administration of the scheme.
Addressing a press conference in Chandigarh Sunday evening, Khaira read out from the ThePrint report, and said he had submitted a complaint to Badnore.
“There is no point asking the Chief Minister Punjab to hold a probe into a scam as the state government’s chief secretary has already given a clean chit to the minister allegedly involved in the scam,” said Khaira, who heads the Punjab Ekta Party, a breakaway faction of the Aam Aadmi Party.
‘Travesty of justice’
In his complaint to the governor, which was shared with the media, Khaira said, “The chief secretary’s report is a highly laboured attempt at the impossible: disengaging the minister who is the head of the department from the actions of all officials below him. That too in a situation where he has been calling for the files himself and passing orders on these files.”
The complaint added: “There is clear and damning evidence of corruption, besides falsification and destruction of records, with the minister and his chosen officials acting at will and with the complete sense of impunity, in wanton disregard of all established norms of government functioning.”
Khaira said it was a “travesty of justice that such a major scam has been swept under the carpet and nobody has been held responsible for the misuse and siphoning of funds meant for the poorest of the poor students belonging to Dalit families”.
Speaking to ThePrint earlier, Dharamsot had denied any irregularities on his part. He said he never signed on any file that had not come through proper channels, and that all decisions with regard to sanctioning of scholarship funds to colleges “were taken in accordance with the instructions issued by the cabinet”.
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