Punjab’s minister for SC/BC welfare issued cheques of Rs 1.15 crore as development grant to 12 villages in Amritsar district, his personal assistant (PA) deposited these in bank accounts of panchayat members, the money was withdrawn too; but it never reached the villages.
It’s a classic case of embezzlement of public money — the bank accounts were opened in the names of people who acquired fake identity cards as being panchayat members, and the minister’s PA allegedly helmed the whole exercise that took place just before the January 30 assembly polls and involved at least 100 others.
The PA, Sarbhdyal Singh, is absconding ever since the rural development department busted the scam and the Amritsar police registered an FIR on June 25, 2012. A bank employee was arrested, but has since got bail.
The minister, senior Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Gulzar Singh Ranike, who was the welfare minister in the last SAD-BJP government and retained the portfolio when the alliance was re-elected earlier this year, has disowned the PA. “I did not know that the grants that I gave from my discretionary fundsdid not reach the people,” Ranike told HT.
The Amritsar police commissioner issued a “sharp lookout notice” for Sarbhdyal three days after the FIR.
Om Parkash, an employee of the Bank of Maharashtra, was arrested and later released on bail in the case registered under sections 406, 409 (embezzlement of public money), 419, 420, 467, 468, 471 (cheating, forgery, fabrication of documents) and 120-B of the IPC. The FIR was recommended by Amritsar deputy commissioner Rajat Aggarwal after a probe by the then district development and panchayats officer (DDPO) Gurpartap Singh Nagra, who was later shifted to Tarn Taran.
LACK OF ACTION
The chargesheet has not been filed yet, though the number of accused runs into three figures, mainly including those who posed as sarpanches and panchayat members, employees of the two banks and staff of the Attari block development and panchayats office (BDPO), from where fake letters were issued to the banks and fake identity cards of sarpanches and panchayat members were handed out. The 12 villages that never got the grants all fall in Ranike’s assembly constituency Attari — Kotla Dal Singh and Dhol of Verka block, Rakh Cheeta of Jandiala Guru block, and Chak Mukand, Bodh, Kotli Nasser Khan, Khasa, Abadi Narain Ghar, Mandiala, Iban Khurd, Ramuwal and Dhattal of Attari block..
WIDER PROBE ON
In the wake of the fake accounts having been exposed in June 2012, the Amritsar DC had constituted a committee under the additional deputy commissioner (ADC) to probe all rural grants issued for Attari’s villages since the beginning of the last fiscal. That probe has not made public any breakthrough so far.