With cabinet minister for rural development Surjit Singh Rakhra at chintan shivir in Goa, his elder brother, Charanjit Singh Rakhra, as de facto minister, distributed the department's grants.
The government guidelines forbid the handing over of official cheques to private people for distribution. The guidelines were issued after HT had exposed the embezzlements of grants issued by cabinet minister Gulzar Singh Ranike.
It is not for the first time that Charanjit Rakhra, who doesn't even have any official or political designation, has flexed his muscles in the rural development ministry. Last week, in the absence of Rakhra, he inaugurated an official function to train panches and sarpanches. About a fortnight ago, he inaugurated development works on behalf of his minister brother.
These days, Charanjit distributes the grant cheques at Rakhra Technologies, a private company of the Rakhra brothers. He even issued a press release with his picture from the function.
"It's not only unconstitutional but also something that raises a question mark on the working of the rural development department, which I see has become a slave to the family of (Surjit Singh) Rakhra," said Brahm Mohindra, a Congress legislator. "The deputy commissioner should explain how the cheques reached a private person," he added.
Former deputy speaker of Vidhan Sahba Bir Devinder Singh demanded the lodging of a first-information report (FIR) with the police against the officials who had handed over the cheques to the minister's brother.
"Surjit Rakhra is a minister, his entire family is not," said the former speaker. "Rakhra took oath as minister but his brother is using the powers.
Bir Devinder referred to the embezzlement charge against Ranike. "In the Rakhra case, the higher bureaucracy should take action against the district development and panchayat officer (DDPO) and Charanjit Rakhra, and file a criminal case against both for using the official status of minister in his absence," he said.
Minister Surjit Singh Rakhra, could not be contacted for comments, as he was in Goa, but deputy commissioner GK Singh said he would seek explanation from the rural development department.