As Sucha Singh Langah, agriculture minister in the 2007-12 SAD-BJP cabinet, got grants from his colleagues for a non-existent college and another institute run by his educational society, he did not let the favours go unreturned.
Here’s a prime example of the mutual generosity: when Gulzar Singh Ranike, who was SC/BC welfare minister in the previous SAD-BJP regime, gave lakhs from the exchequer to Langah’s colleges, Langah gave public money to a school run by the Ranike family in Amritsar.
Ranike had retained his cabinet berth after the polls early this year, but had to resign after a scam in disbursement of grants in his segment Attari was exposed by HT. Langah lost the elections from Dera Baba Nanak.
But before the loss, in this barter of discretionary funds from 2008-09 onwards, Langah got at least Rs 81 lakh for his institutes. And while most other ministers asked for grants for social purposes in their segments, Ranike got Langah to dole out money to Dasmesh Ranike Memorial School, Amritsar. Ranike's wife Kanwaljeet Kaur manages this school, which also got grants from Adesh Partap Kairon.
Since ministers are stipulated not to give more than 50% of their grants in their own segment, the barter came in handy.
Ranike, on January 21, 2009, doled out Rs 6 lakh to the non-existent Guru Gobind Singh Khalsa College of Kalanaur and Rs 7 lakh to Guru Arjun Dev College of Nursing in Dhariwal. Langah reciprocated, with Rs 2 lakh to the Ranike-run school on February 11, 2009.
Ranike acknowledged having received the money: “But our school exists! It caters to the needy, and we even offer free education. If the college in Kalanaur is only on paper, it is Langah’s fault. His letter seeking the grant is attached to the record.”
Langah also employed barter to get money for his colleges from Surjit Kumar Jyani, Adesh Partap Kairon and Janmeja Singh Sekhon, among others. For instance, Kairon gave Rs 5 lakh each for Langah’s nursing college and the non-existent Kalanaur college. In return, Langah gave nearly Rs 20 lakh to Kairon’s segment Patti. From Jyani, Langah got Rs 20 lakh for in return for a similar grant for development works in Fazilka.
Sekhon justified the ‘system’: “As every minister wants maximum grants for his constituency, funds are exchanged this way. I did the same. But I am accountable only for the grant utilised in my area. And Langah is responsible for use or misuse of the grants that he got.”