Demanding a CBI investigation into the book scam in the state education department, Punjab Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa on Saturday asked chief minister Parkash Singh Badal to remove education minister Sikandar Singh Maluka from the cabinet.
Bajwa said Maluka should resign in the interest of a fair inquiry, for which he wanted the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to step in. At a press conference here, Bajwa said the book scam involved the misappropriation of about Rs 9.5 crore from the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan money.
'Second scam where minister is involved'
He said Maluka was earlier involved in a scam in the supply of practical books and, in that case as well, students were forced to buy the stuff from particular dealers. It was shocking that a pipe manufacturer was given the contract to publish exercise books, said Bajwa.
The state Congress president said books with vulgar content and derogatory remarks against national leaders and the present CM had made it to schools. Bajwa said that the Punjab Congress would picket the official residence of Maluka and hold a demonstration against him.
"We will not let the state government bury the issue, and will take it to the logical end," said Bajwa.
'Rs 1,600 crore siphoned off'
A Congress delegation of parliamentarians and legislators will meet the union human resource development (HRD) minister and bring to his notice the misuse of the Centre's funds. He said the state government had parked Rs 3,500 crore in the bank accounts of its corporations and boards to skip audit. "A comptroller and auditor general (CAG) report suggests that Rs 1,600 crore of these funds had been siphoned off," Bajwa added.
The leader said Badal was to blame for the corrupt practices of his ministers, to whom he gave clean chit every time. He said the Congress had no faith in the Punjab vigilance department that earlier had absolved Akali cabinet minister Gulzar Singh Ranike of the charge of embezzling border-area development grants.
Badal was on the wrong track, said Bajwa. "The man who started his political career as sarpanch of his village has lost all respect for democratic values," he added. "Whatever he does at the instance of his son, deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, will cost him dear."
Bajwa to protest in Badal constituency
On Monday, Bajwa will lead a delegation of the party's MPs and MLAs to Manna village near the CM's native place, Badal, in Lambi assembly constituency. At Manna, Punjab Police had registered criminal cases against 150 people who had protested against booth capturing allegedly by Akali goons led by Bobby Badal, a relative of the CM.
"All people in the village have deserted their homes and the police are camping there round the clock. Their relatives in faraway villages are being picked up and terrorised," said Bajwa.
Bajwa denied that the Congress workers had burnt any vehicles at Manna. "The entire village had gathered to oppose booth capturing by the SAD men and retaliated to the action of Akali goons," he said, adding: "What action have the police taken against the people who came armed and captured the booths?"
On the Punjab Police role in the zila parishad and block samiti elections, Bajwa said they have become a slave of the state government and had no self-esteem left. "The police refused to register a case on the complaint of Congress legislator Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi.
Ferozepur senior superintendent of police Varinderpal Singh had accepted in full public view that Sodhi had been wronged at the police would surely register a case," Bajwa added.
MLAs Charanjit Singh Channi, Tarlochan Soond, and Gurkirat Singh Kotli; state Congress general secretary Fateh Jung Singh Bajwa; and state party spokesperson Sukhpal Singh Khaira were also at the press conference.