As the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) noose tightens around the necks of six officials of the Punjab health department over grants for fictitious medicinal plants in 14 cases only, a closer look suggests that 171 cases need to be examined.
These are the beneficiaries who received ? 5.5 crore as first instalment of ? 11 crore total subsidy sanctioned for the state under the scheme seven years ago. National Medicinal Plants Board (NMPB) held back the second installment of ? 1.5 crore in 64 cases, asking its Punjab counterpart to prove usage of an equal amount of the first payment.
Punjab State Medicinal Plants Board (PSMPB) here has kept the matter buried. The first instalment was disbursed to these 64 “beneficiaries” in financial years 2005-06 and 2006-07. In September 2011, the NMPB wrote to the Punjab counterpart to seek the farmers’ progress reports of the first cultivation year, besides field verification data, and bank documents as evidence of the grants transaction.
The letter was addressed to state ayurveda director Dr Rakesh Sharma, who said he was no more member secretary of the PSMPB. “Some IFS (Indian Forest Services) officer now has the charge,” he said, declining to give the new officer’s name and contact number.
“All these subsidies were disbursed before I took over as member secretary,” said Dr Sharma, who assumed the charge in 2008. HT has documents of direct communication between the national board and Dr Sharma as member secretary of the PSMPB since 2008.
He had hidden the facts of these 64 shady deals, when the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) report had highlighted 14 fake beneficiaries, based on which the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) now has recommended departmental inquiry and major penalty against six officials and got prosecution sanction for Dr Manju Dubey.
Dr Dubey, Dr Rana, Harinder and clerk Jiwan Lal already face a departmental inquiry for major penalty in an another case of showing fake beneficiaries to usurp ? 2.13-crore subsidy grants from the national board to 104 people in the financial year 2006-07. Facing the same inquiry, health department officials Dr Chander Mohan Ghai and Dr YC Markan have now retired.
State ayurveda director Dr Rakesh Sharma also confirmed that the regular inquiry against five officials was in the final stage. The inquiry was assigned to retired IAS (Indian Administrative Service) officer MM Oberoi.
In December 2009, Dr Sharma took no action against the 16 beneficiaries who had failed to prove plantation and filled verification forms in identical language, even given identical addresses.
The common words, as certified by Dr Sharma, were: “Due to some reasons or the nonavailability of proper marketing, I suffered great loss and, thus, have closed this project. If guided properly and the crop-marketing arrangements are made, I shall enter contract farming again.” The forms were sent to the NMPB that had sought to know why the scheme had failed.