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College on paper, R38-lakh grants in kitty

punjab Updated: Oct 23, 2012 15:39 IST
Vishal Rambani
Vishal Rambani
Hindustan Times
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This historical town, which witnessed Emperor Akbar’s coronation, has room for fiction too — in the form of Guru Gobind Singh Khalsa College.

No institution by this name exists there, yet certain colleagues of then agriculture minister Sucha Singh Langah in the previous Punjab cabinet (2007-12) gave grants to the tune of Rs 38 lakh to the ‘college’ run by his educational society, as per details obtained under the Right To Information (RTI) Act.

Thanks to his then cabinet colleagues, Langah also got Rs 41-lakh grants for Guru Arjan Dev College of Nursing, Dhariwal, 22 km from here. The only difference is that this college exists.

Former cabinet minister Gulzar Singh Ranike, current ministers Adesh Partap Singh Kairon, Janmeja Singh Sekhon, Surjit Jyani and Parminder Dhindsa, member of Parliament Sher Singh Ghubaya and chief parliamentary secretary Sohan Singh Thandal disbursed grants for development works of the non-existent college from 2009 to 2011. And that too without bothering to pay a visit to the ‘campus’.

“I gave the grant cheques to Langah in good faith. He never told me that the college is yet to come up and that he is the society president. It’s his responsibility if the grants were misued,” said Sekhon. Jyani and Dhindsa said they gave the grant cheques as Langah claimed that these were meant for a prestigious institute of his area.

“There is no Khalsa college in Kalanaur. The only college in the town is the Gian Sagar college,” said Jatinder, a local resident, when the HT team asked him about the college’s address.

The authorities of Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU) and Punjab Technical University confirmed that no such college in Kalanaur was affiliated to them. GNDU gives affiliation to colleges in Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Tarn Taran, Ferozepur, Kapurthala and Jalandhar districts, while PTU gives permission to technical educational institutions across Punjab.

Raking in moolah Within a fortnight or so, Langah secured Rs 20 lakh for the ‘college’- Kairon gave a grant of Rs 5 lakh on January 14, 2009, followed by Ranike (Rs 6 lakh, January 21), Ghubaya (Rs 2 lakh, January 27), and Sekhon (Rs 7 lakh, February 2).

After getting these grants, Langah, as society president, signed a lease deed with Nishan Singh, a resident of Fateh Nangal village, for 2.25-acre land at Dhariwal, 22 km from Kalanaur. The lease was fixed for a meagre sum of Rs 15,000 per annum for a period of 35 years. Subsequently, Langah received grants from Dhindsa (Rs 5 lakh), Jyani (Rs 10 lakh) and Thandal (Rs 3 lakh).

As per the 2009-10 rules, grants can be sanctioned for repair, maintenance and renovation of school buildings. Such grants are not allowed for the construction of rooms of school buildings. However, this rule was flouted in Langah’s case.

Interestingly, the grants were released for the Kalanaur ‘college’, but ‘utilised’ for the Dhariwal institute.

‘Defunct’ society at Kalanaur

Langah claims that he is the president of the Guru Gobind Singh Khalsa College Society, Kalanaur, which was registered with the Registrar of Cooperative Societies in 1998. Langah’s wife Harbhajan Kaur is the treasurer, while his son is on the 11-member board of trustees. According to Section 3 of the Memorandum of Association, signed by Langah and others in 1998, the society has its registered office in Kalanaur. However, the society has no office in the town. The ex-minister claims that his society is now based in Dhariwal, his native place.

Later that year, the Gurdaspur Improvement Trust allotted a 1-acre plot at Gurdaspur to Langah at reserved rates for his society, even though it had no experience in the education sector.

However, no educational institute has come up on this plot. The commercial value of this property is Rs 8-10 crore.

Balwant Singh Kalanaur, a founder member of the society, told HT, “It was my wish to build a college at Kalanaur. However, after Langah tried to use society for personal gains, we disbanded it.”

“For us, the society has been defunct since 1998, when Langah tried to get allotment of 12 acres of panchayat land at Kalanaur, and we opposed it. If Langah has taken grants in the name of the Kalanaur-based society, he has cheated local residents. We will approach the high court for an investigation into the disbursal of grants,” he added.

Pressure tactics

When asked about the grants for a fictitious college, Langah initially remained evasive, stating that the matter regarding the Kalanaur plot allotment was pending in the SAS Nagar court, where he is facing a disproportionate assets case.

Langah even tried to lure and threaten this correspondent through his supporters Amrik Singh Mohali and Jaswinder Singh. However, when he was told that HT would go ahead with the story, he finally started talking.

“Don’t mix politics with education. The Guru Gobind Singh Khalsa College Society, Kalanaur, is running five educational institutes. The college exists and would start B.Ed course in the coming year,” Langah said. “Yes, I have taken government grants. There is nothing wrong in it,” he said, adding that the college was under construction at Dhariwal.

He did not reply when asked why his cabinet colleagues had given grants only to his ‘college’ rather than the government schools at Kalanaur.

Langah, former MLA from Gurdaspur’s Dera Baba Nanak constituency (which includes Kalanaur), lost in the January 30 assembly elections.