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HindustanTimes Thu,21 Aug 2014

Herbs scam: CBI indicts six Punjab officials

Prabhjit Singh, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, July 13, 2014
First Published: 07:45 IST(13/7/2014) | Last Updated: 12:44 IST(13/7/2014)

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has directed the Punjab government to take departmental action against and impose major penalty on six health department officials who disbursed Rs. 43-lakh central grants in 2006 to fake beneficiaries for medicinal plants that were never grown.

Former state health minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla also didn’t act in her tenure; and assembly ignored the comptroller and auditor general of India (CAG) alarm in 2011. The accused are either in job or retired, while the CBI has got prosecution sanction for one.

On Wednesday (July9), the CBI procured the prosecution sanction against Dr Manju Dubey, one of the accused officials in its report. It had registered the case in July 2011 on a complaint by National Medicinal Plants Board in Delhi under Sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 420 (cheating), 465 (forgery), 468 (forgery for cheating), and 471 (using as genuine a forged document or electronic record) of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 13 (1)(d) (criminal misconduct by public servant, obtaining a valuable thing or pecuniary advantage) and 13(2) (punishment for criminal misconduct by public servant) of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The CBI findings were sent to the state chief secretary last month along with the recommendations for a mandatory departmental action against all the accused. This, however, has come more than three years after the state’s entire legislature ignored the comptroller and auditor general of India (CAG) report that was tabled before it in 2011.

The CAG had detected the fraudulent disbursement of as subsidy to 14 fake beneficiaries and written to the state health department for clarification. This July 9, the state gave the sanction to the CBI to prosecute Dr Dubey but it is silent over the departmental action against her and the five others whom the CBI wanted punished.

Dr Dubey continues to work without hassle in Patiala, as a district ayurveda officer. Of the other accused, Dr KK Sharma retired as ayurveda director, while superintendents Harvinder Kaur and Gopal Chand, senior officials Dr Rana Harender and Jiwan Lal took voluntary retirement when the scam came out in the CAG report in 2011.

Punjab principal secretary for health Vini Mahajan confirmed that the CBI had sought the prosecution sanction for Dr Dubey only. The present ayurveda director, Dr Rakesh Kumar, said three of the six named as accused in the CBI report faced a department inquiry already for a major penalty but he could share the details with the media.

LACK OF POLITICAL, BUREAUCRATIC WILL

In April 2010, the-then health minister, Laxmi Kanta Chawla, and thethen, principal secretary for health, Satish Chandra, failed to take departmental action against Dr Dubey and others whom a nodal officer had held guilty.

The noting documents in the possession of HT suggest that Chalwa and Chandra circumvented the official preliminary inquiry that held Dr Dubey and her conduits guilty of disbursing a second instalment of Rs. 43 lakh to the 14 fake beneficiaries in March-April 2009.

“The guilty officials had also ignored the fact that the state medicinal plants board had returned the first instalment of Rs. 43 lakh in September 2005,” stated the nodal officer’s report that was sent to Satish Chandra, who forwarded it to the health minister in April 2010 for appropriate action.

Instead of marking a regular inquiry, Chawla wrote in the noting file on April 12, 2010: “An explanation be sought from all these officials.” Even after the CAG report laid all the scam facts before the Vidhan Sabha in 2011, the officials held guilty were free to move, but for the CBI to now take a call.

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