The Ministry of Culture has decided to eat the humble pie and go back on its allegation that the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) had indulged in funds diversion.
The ministry’s Chief Controller of Accounts had prepared a report alleging that the NMML, one of India’s top research institutions, had diverted R5 crore meant for publication work to a Sonia Gandhi-run trust. But now the ministry has given a clean chit to the NMML, admitting its own error.
The report had said funds meant for “publication of selected works of Jawaharlal Nehru and C. Rajagopalachari, salaries, museum development and installation of CCTVs” were diverted to the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund — a “violation” of the conditions under which the ministry gave the money.
Following this, some scholars — who had earlier too run an unsuccessful campaign against NMML director Mridula Mukherjee — petitioned the Central Vigilance Commission, alleging corruption in NMML.
The NMML sent a stinging rejoinder to this pointing out that the funds had been granted only for the Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru (SWJN) and not for the other purposes mentioned. It said funds were released to the Nehru Fund with the approval of the Finance Committee and the Executive Council of the NMML in March 2009, in the presence of Ministry of Culture representatives.
It also wrote that then Minister of Culture Ambika Soni had written to NMML Executive Council chairman Karan Singh in December 2008 “regarding the release of a one-time grant of R5 crore to complete the publication of SWJN”.
The NMML says the Nehru Memorial Fund has brought out about 60 Nehru Volumes but offered to transfer the work to the NMML due to financial constraints. The NMML suggested the Fund continue the work and asked the ministry for a grant to reimburse it for the work.
The ministry has accepted the NMML position. It has written to its Pay and Accounts Office correcting “anomalies” in two of its letters. The latest letter says: “Although the transfer of funds by NMML to JNMF has been done with the approval of the competent authority, it has led to an anomaly… A decision has been taken to issue an amendment to the sanction letters to remove the anomaly.”