The National Commission for Scheduled Castes pulled up the Punjab government on Friday over embezzlement of funds meant for the poor under various welfare schemes and asked it to investigate certain identified cases of corruption in this regard within a month.
"The commission will go for a CBI probe into all the identified cases of embezzlement under the Shagun, old-age pension and other welfare schemes if the state government fails to submit its report to us within a month," commission vice-chairman Raj Kumar Verka said at a press conference here.
The panel has also asked the state government to give details of all the identified cases of such embezzlements to either the crime branch of the Punjab Police or the vigilance bureau so that the guilty could be duly punished.
Verka said senior welfare department officials led by principal secretary R Venkatratnam appeared before the commission on Thursday in response to a notice served to the state, and the government acknowledged embezzlement of at least Rs. 56 crore, mainly from the funds under the Shagun scheme. The officials also assured the panel that a fact-finding report would be submitted at the earliest.
"Not a single officer even at the district level has been arrested despite the expose of embezzlement of funds meant for the poor," Verka said.
The commission had, on Thursday, specifically asked officials of the state welfare and social welfare departments whether any action had been taken on the bogus claims under the Shagun scheme in Faridkot district. It had also asked them to specify the steps taken to stop the bogus claims, the action taken against the guilty officers, the recoveries made so far, the modus operandi adopted to recover the funds, the number of officials held guilty and the action taken against them and the number of FIRs lodged against the culprits, including the guilty officers and the bogus claimants, and the details of the FIRs.
Verka said the commission was not satisfied with the "incomplete" reply given by state officials in Friday's hearing and, therefore, a one-month notice had now been given to file a complete reply.
Seeks fair probe into Ranike rip-off cases
The commission also demanded a fair investigation into the two cases registered against the PA of former minister Gulzar Singh Ranike for embezzlement of funds released under the minister's discretionary grants quota. Verka said it was unfortunate that there was no major breakthrough in this matter despite the two FIRs against Ranike's close associates.