THE CBI has initiated a preliminary inquiry into a pre-matric scholarship scam exposed by The Indian Express in a series of reports. Sources said the agency will start its investigation from Gaya, Bihar, where the first FIR into the scam was registered after the newspaper reported about a school there with fake beneficiaries.
A team of CBI personnel is expected to visit Gaya on December 8. “The agency will start its investigation from Manu Indian Public School where fake students got the scholarship money in the school’s name, as The Indian Express reported… We will follow leads from there,” the source said.
A preliminary enquiry (PE) is the first step by investigating agencies such as the CBI to assess ‘criminality’ in allegations made in a complaint — in this case, the Ministry of Minority Affairs. If the findings are found to be serious, the agency registers an FIR or else the PE is closed
The Indian Express investigation had revealed diversion of the Centrally funded pre-matric scholarship meant for poor minority students by a nexus of middlemen, bank correspondents, officials and school staff. The Indian Express went through entries, district by district, on the National Scholarship Portal and matched them with beneficiary bank accounts, as well as verified the same at the school level.
Evidence of the scam was found in Jharkhand, Bihar, Assam and Punjab.
On November 2, the Ministry of Minority Affairs had held its first meeting on the issue, with Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi telling The Indian Express he had initiated a probe.
As per records, Manu Indian Public School in Banke Bazaar Block had on its list 134 students, including 128 hostel residents, eligible for the highest scholarship slab of Rs 10,700 per year.
However, a visit by The Indian Express had found that the school operated out of a half-painted two-storey structure in the midst of a deserted field and had no hostel, with owner Rajiv Kumar confirming that all the names on the list were “fake”.
After the report appeared, an FIR was registered in Gaya under IPC Sections 468 (forgery for cheating), 471 (dishonestly using a forged document) and 420 (cheating). It named Babar Ali for allegedly submitting forged verification documents to the district welfare officer while posing as nodal officer of Manu Indian Public School to siphon off the scholarship money.
In Jharkhand, following The Indian Express investigation and a probe by a district team, the Dhanbad police has registered 11 FIRs against various schools owners and middlemen and computer operators. On Friday, the Jharkhand High Court took suo motu cognizance of The Indian Express reports, saying that prima facie there was a “scandal”, and asked the state to file a “detailed affidavit”.