The role of the Punjab police has come under the scanner as they had let off block development and panchayat officer Dinesh Vashisht even after he confessed to his involvement in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guaranatee Act (MNREGA) scam in written before an SP-rank official.
This has given a fillip to the opposition allegations that the entire district administration was working to keep the matter under wraps as the police didn’t register an FIR for long though the complaint was lodged on May 30.
Similarly, the rural development department, which got the reports of embezzlement and even after the initial inquiry indicted the BDPOs for the scam on April 24, did not take action.
The inquiry by the ADC (development) had indicted Vashisht for taking a bribe of 18 lakh, while the other BDPO Malwinder was charged for embezzling Rs. 10.8 lakh.
Sources said the plan of the district administration was to keep the matter under wraps by asking the BDPOs to deposit the embezzled amount back with the department.
Both had agreed as the inquiry had blamed them for minor sums whereas the real embezzlement had taken place in the spending of crores of rupees.
Vashisht, in a written statement on June 10, had confessed that he had embezzled money and taken kickbacks from material suppliers, and would deposit back 18 lakh.
He made the written confession before SP (detective) Jaskaran Singh Teja in the presence of BDPOs Gurinder Singh Tung, Baljit Singh Sohi, Akbar Ali and Dilwar Kaur.
Even the FIR registered by the police mentioned that while Malwinder didn’t appear before the police, Vashisht admitted embezzlement of Rs. 18 lakh and promised to deposit it the next day.
However, he didn’t appear before the police afterwards, said the FIR.
After the HT highlighted the scam hinting that it was much bigger than the report of the ADC (D), the officials went underground.
SP (detective) Teja said he had got the file to investigate the scam. “Yes, Vashisht admitted that he embezzled Rs. 18 lakh and his colleagues gave the surety that the amount would be deposited back the next day, and he was released.”
However, the SP failed to justify as to why the police launched an inquiry and delayed the matter by a fortnight when the original complaint by the DDPO was to lodge an FIR on the basis of the already-conducted inquiry.
Meanwhile, the police have also registered an FIR against M/s Ram Sarup Garg, a brick kiln supplier, who paid the kickbacks; and M/s Piara Singh and Rajinder Singh, water tank suppliers, who had charged more in billing and paid the money as kickbacks to the BDPOs. Both were in league with the BDPOs in the embezzlement.