In a damage-control measure, Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on Tuesday directed beleaguered education minister Sikander Singh Maluka to immediately repatriate the latter's daughter-in-law, Parampal Kaur, from the scam-hit education department to her parent department (rural development and panchayats).
"Badal asked Maluka why Parampal was brought to the education department, and that too in the office of the director general, school education (DGSE). Without waiting for an answer, the CM told him to repatriate her to the rural development department," sources said.
According to the sources, with Maluka having considerable influence in the Malwa region, the CM is reluctant to straightaway tell him to resign. Thus, Badal is dropping hints that if corrective action is not taken, the minister would have to leave the cabinet.
Though Maluka remained incommunicado, rural development and panchayat minister Surjit Singh Rakhra confirmed the development regarding Parampal. "She would be back in her parent department within a week. We have initiated the process to recall her."
Parampal is on deputation in the DGSE's office as the additional state project director, enjoying administrative as well as financial powers.
DGSE's inquiry led to trio's suspension
Though Sikander Singh Maluka has been at loggerheads with director general, school education, Kahan Singh Pannu, a Badal loyalist, it is the latter's preliminary inquiry which forced the minister to acknowledge the scam in the tendering for books and lab kits. Consequently, Maluka directed the education secretary to suspend director, public instructions, elementary (DPI-E), Pritpal Kaur, SAS Nagar district education officer Vinod Kumar and finance officer, Punjab School Education Board, Gurtej Singh.
In his inquiry report, Pannu had not only questioned the basis of the parallel tendering procedure adopted by the DPI but also indicted the trio for wrong selection of books and other irregularities. When the scam was reported, the CM had called for the inquiry report. Finding the facts right, he passed directions which led to the suspension of the trio.
As per Pannu's recommendation for a full-fledged inquiry, the CM had on Monday ordered a probe by a retired high court judge, justice AN Jindal.
Sources said Pannu had sought seven days' time for completing this inquiry on his own, but the CM didn't agree to this demand.