School uniform scam: Congress blames Punjab chief minister for cops’ inaction

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Nov 13, 2014 18:26 IST

The Congress has accused the Punjab chief minister of pressurising the police to not register a case against a former district education officer (DEO), who was held responsible for financial irregularities in the payment of Rs 4.89 crore for school uniform of students from economically backward sections in Gurdaspur district in 2012.

At a press conference here on Wednesday, Punjab Congress spokesman Sukhpal Khaira said: “The police have so far not registered a case despite receiving several letters from the education department and the director general of school education (DGSE) for lodging a first information report and initiating criminal proceedings against dismissed DEO Shindo Sahni.”

Khaira said he had written to governor Shivraj Patil to intervene and ensure police action in the case so that the alleged role of then education minister came to light.

He said an official letter (dated April 17, 2012) written by the then DGSE-cum-state project director of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) to the Gurdaspur SSP read: “Rs 4.89 crore were electronically transferred to the SSA bank account under the DEO, Gurdaspur, and the money was, in turn, directly paid to three suppliers in violation of the guidelines for spending the SSA grants.

According to the guidelines, the DEO was to ensure the purchase and distribution of school uniform to around 1.22 lakh school children, including all girl students, Scheduled Caste students and below poverty line (BPL) students.

Khaira stated: “The DEO, under the directions from then education minister Sewa Singh Sekhwan, who hails from Gurdaspur, blatantly flouted the guidelines and directed all block primary education officers, through a letter dated April 7, 2011, to make direct payments to two firms namely M/s Elite Tube Pvt Ltd and M/s Karan Enterprises, both from Jalandhar. Misappropriation and embezzlement of the said grant has been explained in the DGSE’s letter to the Gurdaspur SSP. Similarly, the grant received under Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) for the purchase of furniture for schools was also embezzled and the payments were made directly to two firms — Gobind Impex of Jalandhar and Naresh Steel Furniture of Dera Bassi -- instead through statute committees.”

The Punjab Congress spokesman said once the investigation began, Shindo Sahni and others would name Sekhwan as the main culprit. The Gurdaspur SSP is dithering to register an FIR and launch criminal proceedings in the matter due to immense pressure from Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal,” Khaira added.

Assets case against Badals

When asked if the Congress would investigate the disproportionate assets case against the Badals if it emerges victorious in the 2017 assembly elections, Khaira said corruption prevailed in the country irrespective of the change in regimes.

He said any abeyance in re-opening the case by the next Congress regime would mean “a connivance of the next Congress chief minister with the Badals”.

When asked why the case, which was registered in 2003, had not been solved during the then Congress
regime, Khaira said Capt Amarinder Singh would be able to reply to this query.

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