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HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times
Chandigarh, July 30, 2013
The Punjab Congress on Tuesday dubbed the setting up of Adarsh schools across the state, a "dream project" of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, an utter failure and a source of embezzlement, fraud and swindling of government funds by private players.
The Congress, citing the audit reports of June 2012 of two Adarsh schools - located at Hardasa in Ferozepur district and Manawan in Moga district - said private players managing these schools were indulging in gross financial and administrative irregularities, putting the future of about 30,000 students in jeopardy.

State party spokesperson Sukhpal Singh Khaira, accompanied by Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) general secretary Fateh Jang Singh Bajwa, former minister Inderjit Singh Zira and Adarsh schools' teachers as well as students' parents, demanded a special audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of all 22 Adarsh schools to pinpoint the "brazen misuse" of government funds.

Khaira also demanded that the Punjab government should not only immediately issue a white paper on the status of Adarsh schools but also take over the management of these institutions from private hands to save the future of thousands of poor students and their parents.

What policy says
As per the policy under which Adarsh schools were envisaged, poor rural students are entitled to free quality education, for which the Punjab Educational Development Board (PEDB) was set up under the chairmanship of the chief minister.

The schools are to be run under the public-private partnership (PPP) mode. The monthly operational cost is to be shared by the Punjab government and the private player in the ratio of 70:30. Panchayat land was provided to these schools free of cost, while the construction has to be borne by the government and the private player in equal proportion.

The monthly cost of each student was calculated to be Rs. 1,680, to be borne by the government and the private player. Every student, as per the policy, is supposed to get free admission, textbooks, uniform, meals and mode of transportation.

Irregularities detected
According to the audit reports, the Adarsh schools at Hardasa and Manawan villages have been taking Rs. 3,500 from each student per month as part of the admission fee and transportation charges. These schools paid a salary of Rs. 15,000 per month to each teacher through bank accounts, but later asked them to return Rs. 5,000 to the management as laptop and faculty development programme charges, disclosed teachers who were also presented before the media.

"The schools are overstaffed. Many staff members do not even show up in the school. Hence, government funds are being misused by these private managements," the teachers added.

Khaira said both schools were managed by the Baba Ishar Singh Educational Society, which is chaired by JS Dhaliwal who, Khaira claimed, was a close associate of Badal. "He was earlier managing seven Adarsh schools, but handed over five of these back to the government due to his inability to manage them," said the state Congress spokesperson.

Chamail Singh, whose children studied in the Manawan Adarsh school, even moved the Punjab and Haryana high court, which directed the Punjab director general, school education (DGSE), on July 9 to conduct a detailed inquiry into all Adarsh schools of the state within two months.