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One serving, 3 ex-IAS officers booked in Rs 7-crore Bihar soft skill training scam

In an FIR, registered by the state by Vigilance Investigation Bureau (VIB) at the Vigilance police station of Patna on Wednesday, they have been accused of fraudulently withdrawing more than Rs 7.3 crore between 2012 and 2016 against alleged fake entries of students.

Written by Santosh Singh | Patna | Updated: July 17, 2020 4:58:03 am
The probe revealed that during 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 fiscal, British Lingua withdrew more than Rs 7.3 crore through multiple cheques. (File/Representational)

A serving IAS officer, three retired IAS officers, the director of a much-applauded institute providing training in spoken English, and five other officials of Bihar Mahadalit Vikas Mission, a flagship state government initiative to provide educational and vocational training among Scheduled Caste communities are among 10 people booked for alleged cheating, fraud and criminal conspiracy while the course was conducted.

In an FIR, registered by the state by Vigilance Investigation Bureau (VIB) at the Vigilance police station of Patna on Wednesday, they have been accused of fraudulently withdrawing more than Rs 7.3 crore between 2012 and 2016 against alleged fake entries of students.\

The state government had started the course in spoken English for students from SC communities in 22 districts by engaging an agency called British Lingua, headed by Birbal Jha. The scheme was lauded when it was initiated, and later ran into controversy over its implementation and exact number of beneficiaries.

The Mahadalit Vikas Mission said it provided training to 14,826 students between 2012 and 2016. But Vigilance investigation found trainees were “pursuing two different trades and sessions at the same timing (and) under same names and addresses.”

The FIR stated, “Signatures of these trainees on two different registers were evidences against them (accused).”

The FIR names British Lingua director Birbal Jha; then Bihar Mahadalit Vikas Mission director and serving IAS officer S M Raju; then Mission directors Raghvendra Jha, Rajnarayan Lal and Ramashish Paswan (all retired IAS officers); then Mission coordinators Anil Kumar Sinha (retired Bihar government officer)’and Shashi Bhushan Singh; then Mission coordinator (2) Harendra Kumar Srivastava; then Mission assistant director Birendra Choudhary; and then state programme officer Devjani Kar.

The FIR has invoked different IPC Sections — 406 (criminal breach of trust), 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant), 420 (cheating), 467 (forgery of valuable security), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating), 471 (using as genuine as a forged document), 477a (falsification of accounts) and 120b (criminal conspiracy) — and provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act.

IAS officer S M Raju said he is yet to get details of the case.

Dismissing the allegations, British Lingua’s Jha said, “With mala fide intention, sinister efforts are being made to deny the rights of the claimant, tarnish and malign the highly earned image and reputation of the British Lingua founder (Jha hinself).”

Investigating Officer (IO) and VIB Inspector Sanjiv Kumar has stated in the FIR: “I investigated part-2 of the matter relating to Bihar Mahadalit Vikas Mission giving training to Mahadalits (Scheduled Caste under various trades). Under it, British Lingua agency provided spoken English training and the agency has been facing charges of illegal withdrawal of payment under the scheme”.

The investigation found that in 22 districts, and other districts where the Mahadalit Mission expanded the programme, “Birbal Jha, in collusion with Mahadalit Mission officials and others, conspired to prepare forged and false documents regarding work order and expansion of English spoken training”.

The FIR states that a certain work order clause — that it is “valid for two batches of districts (40 trainees) batch” and the work order can be “renewed after assessment of performance” — was not followed. It said work order and expansion was granted without assessing “quality and quantity” of spoken English skill training provided by British Lingua.

The FIR notes, “…it shows criminal intention of British Lingua director in collusion with the officials of Bihar Mahadalit Vikas Mission.”

The investigation revealed that during 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 fiscals, British Lingua withdrew more than Rs 7.3 crore — Rs 7,30,13,309 — through multiple cheques. “As the investigation progress, the amount is likely to rise,” the FIR mentioned.

It said conditions kept changing in the four years for which the course ran: “While some chamges were in interest of the programme, certain changes only benefitted the British Lingua.”

Birbal Jha told The Indian Express: “The FIR lodged is unlawful, illegal and a contempt of Court of Arbitration appointed by Patna High Court, which vide Arbitration Case No. -01/2017 awarded a decree on May 22, 2019 in favour of British Lingua. It ordered Bihar Mahadalit Vikas Mission to pay the adjudicated amount to the training agency. This FIR is complete violation and breach of the business contract with an arbitration clause between the sponsoring BMVM and the training company British Lingua.”

The state government had first advertised about the programme on October 4, 2011, for training in nearly 20 soft skills, including the spoken English course under probe.

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