A judicial enquiry has confirmed that over 10 years, the governments of Punjab and Haryana squandered Indian Red Cross funds meant for relief operations in case of war.
Hindustan Times reported for the first time in December 2007 that the money was used for meeting even district-level bureaucrats’ sundry expenses.
A two-member panel, set up last year by the Punjab and Haryana HC to probe the use of the funds by the two states from 1998-2008, found that the money had been used even for entertainment at the camp offices of deputy commissioners.
Besides, the government channeled the money to clubs, colleges and religious and charitable societies.
The panel’s interim report filed on April 21 — accessed by HT — said the Indian Red Cross Society Act, 1920 stipulated that the Indian Red Cross Society funds or income from the funds could be utilised only for relief in case of a war in any part of the country.
The panel of Justice A.L. Bahri and Justice R.K. Nehru recommended that the money could be recovered in some cases.
HT published a series of reports in December 2007 based on the information obtained by Resurgence India, a non-governmental organisation, under the RTI Act.
The NGO later moved the HC, seeking a CBI probe and prosecution of erring officials.
The judicial panel visited nearly 20 districts of Punjab and Haryana to record the statements of district authorities.
“The replies so far received were stereotype, stating that they followed their predecessors in utilising Red Cross funds. This appears hardly a valid ground to justify their action,” the panel noted.