TRACKING IP addresses, the CBI team that is probing the pre-Matric scholarship scam in Bihar, based on the findings of an investigation by The Indian Express, has zeroed in on locations from where the online forms of “several fake beneficiaries” were filled — all are in Jharkhand’s Chatra, a district that has already come under the scanner of local police.
“After conducting an initial investigation, we found beneficiaries in Sasaram and Gaya districts (of Bihar). Through IP addresses, we tracked the locations from where the forms were filled to Chatra. A few persons have been questioned and some Aadhaar cards found in their possession,” CBI sources told The Indian Express.
“On enquiry, a number of residents in Chatra said they knew who had filled the forms. They pointed to various households in Line Mohalla. Some suspects are yet to be traced. We are investigating the inputs,” sources said.
The mohalla has already come under the scanner of district authorities in Jharkhand’s Dhanbad, who said in a probe report that the alleged mastermind of the scam in the state, identified as Mohammad Sadiq, and his associates were based in Chatra.
Dhanbad was among the six districts in Jharkhand where The Indian Express found that a nexus of middlemen, officials and school staff, colluded to steal IDs and passwords of schools to access the National Scholarship Portal (NSP), dupe gullible parents and students, and set up fake beneficiaries.
The Indian Express also found that the scam stretched from Jharkhand to Bihar and involved schools in Punjab and Assam as well. Taking note of these findings, the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs, which administers this scholarship, sought a CBI investigation last month.
The agency began its probe based on an FIR registered by police in Gaya where The Indian Express found 134 fake beneficiaries from Manu Indian Public School in the Banke Bazar area after investigating entries on the NSP and matching them with bank accounts in the Public Finance Management System (PFMS).
CBI sources said the agency will send an initial report to the Minority Affairs Ministry after which it may register an FIR.
In Jharkhand, the Anti-Corruption Bureau lodged a Preliminary Enquiry into the scam Wednesday. “A team headed by a DySP-rank officer will investigate. The officer will submit the initial findings in 15 days, which will be handed over to the Cabinet Vigilance Department,” said an official.
In its report, the Dhanbad administration referred to the role of several middlemen, school owners, a lawyer, and district officials involved in verification of applicants — 11 FIRs have been registered in the district.
The scholarship scheme, launched in 2008, is meant to help students of minority communities from families with annual income below Rs 1 lakh. Eligible students from Class 1 to 5 receive Rs 1,000 per year, and students of Class 6 to 10 receive Rs 5,700 a year if they are day scholars or Rs 10,700 if they are in a hostel.