A deputy director in Punjab's education department, Vinod Kumar, 57, who was indicted in a scam in purchase of school library books and science lab kits last year, has reportedly committed suicide. His body was found in the Sukhna Lake around 11am here on Tuesday.
No reason for the extreme step came forth immediately as no suicide note was reported to have been found. The matter remained closely guarded by the police for an entire day, and only inquest proceedings were initiated so far.
Vinod, the then district education officer of Mohali (SAS Nagar), and two other officials - director of public instructions (elementary) Prithpal Kaur and Punjab School Education Board's Gurtej Singh - were indicted by the chief minister-appointed Justice AN Jindal Commission. Action was awaited in the matter, in which the judicial commission had questionably exonerated education minister Sikandar Singh Maluka, who had in fact formed the three-member 'purchase committee' against norms in February last year. This committee had "nominated" firms for supply of goods to schools in conflict with the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan rules. The firm for supply of books was even found to be fake.
While all three were suspended after the HT expose, they were reinstated around six months later. Vinod was at present deputy director (vocational) in the office of the DPI.
On Tuesday, Vinod drove to the office in the PSEB building at Mohali with his wife - who works in a related branch - around 9am. Two hours later, his body was found, while the wife came to know of it only around 5pm when she reached the office parking and found the car there, the keys and Vinod's mobile phone still inside.
The news of Vinod's suicide shocked the education department, but his colleagues and the bereaved family remained tightlipped over the possible reasons that led Vinod to the extreme step.
Maluka remained silent on the death of his one-time blue-eyed officer.
An unfinished probe
A parallel departmental probe was also on against Vinod and the two other officials. It remained virtually halted as the judicial commission appointed by the CM was on the job too and submitted its report last month. When contacted about the departmental probe, Bhawra said, "The procedure will continue as per norms."