Additional Chief Secretary (Social Justice, Empowerment and Minorities) Kripa Shankar Saroj has held his department’s minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot and Congress MLA B S Dhaliwal responsible for a scam of Rs 63.91crore in the Post-Matric SC Scholarship scheme of the Centre. The minister has denied the charges.
In his report to Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan, submitted on August 21, Saroj has stated, “Under the PMS-SC scheme the GOI sent Rs 303 crore to Punjab during February -March 2019. Though the Directorate of Social Justice withdrew Rs 248 crore from the treasury, however, the department had then 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.”
Further, he has stated: “Interestingly, an amount of Rs 16.91 crore was paid to such institutions against which the audit team had recommended a recovery of Rs 8 crore, thus costing the state exchequer Rs 24.91 crore. If the amount of recoveries which the audit team had concluded are added to this Rs 16.91 crore, then these officials had cost the exchequer to the tune of Rs 24.91 crore. The minister and his team of officers worked in tandem.”
Payments were made to even those institutions which had been found out as defaulters by the FD audit team. Instead of effecting recoveries from those institutions, heavy payments were made at the level of Deputy Director, Parminder Singh Gill, the report states.
Saroj has also said that it was learnt that Balwinder Singh Dhaliwal, IAS, and the then director in the department was having an agenda to enter politics and contest the seat of an MLA. Gill, the then director in-charge of all important schemes of the department, was reporting directly to the minister.
Also, because the minister had himself assigned the work of PMS-SC to the Deputy Director P S Gill under his own signature, hence the Deputy Director was answerable to none except the minister. Dhaliwal is Phagwara MLA. He had contested Assembly by-election from there in last October.
“As he enjoyed total powers, for almost three months (from second week of August 2019 to December 10, 2019), not even a single paper was put for approval of the Director or the Secretary. The minister was then sent a note requesting him that powers to distribute work among Deputy Directors may be restored to the Director. The minister simply turned down the note writing that directions be followed as per standing orders of the department,” the report adds.
The report also says that P S Gill is considered close to Dharamsot. He had cleared several files on his own. After an audit report in December 2019, the then Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh had ordered suspension of Gill, but the minister had reversed the orders.
Dharamsot, when contacted, said he did not want to say anything as whatever he had to say, it was telecast on TV channels, where he was heard accusing his departmental secretary of venting out his anger against him as “he had not allowed some transfers and postings recommended by the official”.
Later, a government statement quoted him as saying he was willing to face any inquiry and action even if an iota of truth is found in the allegations.
Dharamsot also said that the charges were outrightly malicious, absurd and were politically motivated.
“There are some vested interests who cannot digest the fact that our SC students are getting good facilities and education during Captain Amarinder Singh government. It is a conspiracy to cast aspersions on state government’s efficient working. The vicious attempts are a ploy to ensure the scheme gets stalled and our students don’t get quality education,” he added.
Reiterating his personal commitment to ensure uplift of SC students, Dharamsot said what the present state government has been doing for underprivileged students has been unparallel. Punjab has maximum population of SC students for whom we are duty-bound to ensure proper educational facilities, he said.
Pointing out that it has been Punjab government which has been continuously fighting with Centre to get the scholarship amount on time. “Even today, Rs 1,550 crore is being withheld by Centre for which I have been daily taking up the issue.”
He said the state government has received Rs 811 crore from the Centre during last three years which have been already distributed. The department is already in the process of distributing Rs 309 crore grant at present.