Dust had barely settled on the practical notebooks scam in Punjab and yet another scam,this time over the purchase of library books,has rocked the state education department.
On March 22,the department had directed primary and middle schools in Punjab to purchase a set of 55 books for use in libraries. The instructions stated that these will be provided by a single supplier from Sardoolgarh in Mansa. The schools will have to pay the supplier from funds of the school management committees.
The tendering process is beset with gross irregularities. On February 28,Education Minister Sikander Singh Maluka had ordered the purchase of educative books for libraries in government primary (class 1-V) and upper primary (VI to VIII) schools. He constituted a three-member committee headed by Director Public Instructions (Elementary) Prithpal Kaur and comprising SAS Nagar District Education Officer Vinod Kumar and Gurtej Singh,an employee of Punjab School Education Board,to undertake the purchase of these books. Shockingly,the minister marked this note not to his immediate subordinate Principal Secretary (School Education) Anjali Bhawra but to Prithpal Kaur.
The committee called for tenders through two nearly surreptitious advertisements,which appeared in vernacular newspapers on March 3.
It constituted a sub-committee headed by Bathinda DEO Harkanwaljit Kaur to undertake the tendering process and assess the suitability of the books. This committee had as members Praveen Kumari,headmistress of government school from Maluka the ministers native village Jarnail Singh,Bathinda district science supervisor who worked as personal assistant to the minister and Hindi teacher Sanjiv Bhushan.
The committee examined the samples of books brought by various firms and awarded the tender to the Sardoolgarh firm without going through the contents of the books. It was later found that the firm owner was a property dealer and timber merchant and not someone dealing in books. The TIN number printed on the invoice given by the supplier to a school also has been found fake.
On March 22,Prithpal Kaur ordered schools to procure these books. Though the books were supplied to schools at a discount of 15 per cent,these were found to be priced at more than double the market rate.
Following media reports about vulgar contents in some of these books,Principal Secretary (School Education) Anjali Bhawra marked an inquiry to Director General School Education Kahan Singh Pannu. In a report submitted to the government on Monday,Pannu has stated that the process of tendering was vitiated and no effort was made to go through the books,which is unsuitable for students consumption. He also asked for more time to hold a thorough probe.
However,Bhawra has taken no action on Pannus report. When contacted,she said: The books have been withdrawn from the schools. However,a teacher in Mohali said no orders to withdraw the books from libraries had been received so far.