Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday took strong exception to an inquiry being ordered into the alleged scholarship scam by Union Minister for Social Justice & Empowerment without consulting the state government or waiting for the report of Chief Secretary’s investigation into the matter.
The CM was reacting to the claim of Union Minister of State for Commerce & Industry Som Prakash that a departmental inquiry had been ordered by the Union Social Justice Ministry on his complaint. Som Prakash was quoted saying late on Monday evening that he had drawn the attention of Social Justice Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot to the alleged scam.
In a statement, Amarinder said: “If true, the move was yet another attack on the federal structure.” He called it an action aimed at eroding the state government’s authority, as part of the BJP-led central government’s agenda to undermine the governments in all non-BJP ruled states.
Pointing out that the alleged scam into which the said inquiry has been ordered in fact took place in the 2015-2017 period, under the erstwhile SAD-BJP regime, the Chief Minister said if the intent behind the so-called central government departmental investigation was to cover up the BJP-SAD tracks in the case, it would not succeed.
Amarinder said that inquiry ordered by him was in line with the specific rules of governance and the only lawful course to take, adding that any inquiry by a central department into a case relating to the state without consulting the latter was totally untenable.
The CM also slammed the Centre over its anti-Dalit act of withdrawing the Post-Matric SC Scholarship Scheme, which was benefitting lakhs of the poor SC students in the state by providing them access to higher education.
The war of words between Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and Rajya Sabha MP Partap Singh Bajwa continued on Monday as the CM rejected Bajwa’s contention that there was no comparison between the present scholarship scam and the bitumen scam, in which the latter’s name had figured 15 years ago, asserting that “corruption is corruption, in any and every form.”
“The bitumen scam allegations against Bajwa, then PWD minister in his Cabinet in his previous term, were as serious as those being levelled now in the scholarship scam,” Amarinder was quoted as saying in a statement. The Chief Minister said had he chosen to behave as irresponsibly then as Bajwa was expecting him to do now, he would have sacked the then minister all those years ago on the basis of unsubstantiated charges without a fair probe.
Amarinder said he had decided to assign a detailed and thorough investigation into the alleged scholarship scam to the Chief Secretary as there was clearly a dispute between the concerned minister and the Social Welfare Department’s additional chief secretary, whose internal report had become the basis of the allegations against the minister.
As per the Rules of Business, Government of Punjab, 1992, “Cases in which there is difference of opinion between the Secretary and Minister in charge” shall be submitted to the Chief Minister through the Chief Secretary before issuance of orders, he pointed out. Having been a minister himself, Bajwa should have known that this was the only way forward in the circumstances of the present case, he said, adding that he had asked the Chief Secretary to thoroughly probe the matter before forwarding the case to him for
He also slammed Rajya Sabha MP Shamsher Singh Dullo for supporting the demand for CBI probe into the alleged scam without waiting for the findings of the Chief Secretary’s inquiry. “This lack of faith shown by both the MPs in their own party government showed their malafide intent,” he said, lashing out at Bajwa and Dullo for their continued and persistent anti-party actions.
Amarinder also trashed the Aam Aadmi Party’s so-called `rejection’ of the Chief Secretary inquiry into the matter, terming it totally absurd and irrational.
“Who are they to accept or reject anything?” he asked, adding that AAP itself had been rejected by the people of Punjab a long time back.