Punjab education minister Sikander Singh Maluka, at loggerheads with director general of school education (DGSE) and state project director KS Pannu, has a reason to cheer up. His daughter-in-law, "additional state project director", is in a position to keep the functioning of Pannu in check.
Daughter-in-law Parampal Kaur's holding the fort in the DGSE office is all the more important for Maluka, now that retired Punjab and Haryana high court judge AN Jindal will seek assistance from that office for his investigation into the library-book scam in which the minister is embroiled.
Pannu, who took the lid off the scam, remained absent from the office for the second consecutive working day on Monday. "I am here (in office) because of the minister and for being his daughter-in-law, and this is not a coincidence. But the point is where am I wrong?" Parampal Kaur asked HT, in a interaction in her office.
She even said the executive committee led by chief secretary Rakesh Singh and other senior Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers had approved her appointment in July last year. "Since I was daughter-in-law of the minister concerned, the committee cross-checked all things needed (for her appointment) minutely," she added.
Parampal Kaur's appointment was unprecedented, as she was brought in "on deputation" from the department of rural development and panchayats to occupy the post vacant since 2008. It was Punjab Civil Services (PCS) officer TK Goel who held the office of the additional project director before.
Before Goel, education department's senior official SS Randhawa, a former director of public instruction (DPI), held the post for the first time.
Parampal Kaur confirmed that she enjoyed all administrative and financial (drawing and disbursing) powers, though she pointed out that her financial powers were up to the limit of Rs 10 lakh.
"The limit holds little significance as, as any dealer can divide his bulk payment into cash vouchers of Rs 10 lakh each," said a source in the DGSE's office. "All the files are routed through me," she clarified, when asked whether she coordinated with the DGSE.
She, however, said she had offered lately to discontinue with the financial powers "for the sake of not getting into any controversy".
Her clarification came in the light of the minister's assertion at his Sunday's press conference that her daughter-in-law did not hold any financial powers in the DGSE's office.
Says DGSE's appointment of headmasters not clean
Asked what made her and the education minister put on hold the recruitment of headmasters for filling nearly 220 posts, she cited "discrepancies" in the documents for eligibility as submitted by "a majority of the appointees".
Q: But since it was the DGSE's move, was he taken into confidence?
A: It was the decision of the minister (to halt these appointments) after the matter was brought to his notice.
The moot point remains who better than her to bring the matter to the notice of her father-in-law minister?