PCS officer accused of smuggling ‘bought’ antiques from university as scrap
One of the chairs from among the furniture thus bought and later smuggled out of the country was recently sold for Rs 3 lakh in Europe, it is learnt.punjab Updated: Sep 03, 2017 14:45 IST
The role of Punjab Civil Services (PCS) officer NPS Randhawa, against whom tourism minister Navjot Singh Sidhu has demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Invetsigation (CBI) for alleged smuggling of antiques, bought antiques from Punjabi University, Patiala, as scrap against cash payment for the department of archives.
One of the chairs from among the furniture thus bought and later smuggled out of the country was recently sold for Rs 3 lakh in Europe, it is learnt.
The state government anyway prohibits procurement in cash beyond Rs 5,000, but Randhawa paid Rs 1 lakh in cash for purchase of antique furniture at Rs 15 per kg. This procurement needs note as the letter from the directorate of revenue intelligence — that mentions Randhawa’s alleged crime and forms the basis of Sidhu’s letter to chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh seeking a CBI probe — makes express mention of it too.
As per information gathered, Randhawa in early May 2014 visited Punjabi University and inspected scrapped items. He wrote a demi-official letter on May 28 to the then vice-chancellor Jaspal Singh for sale of the items, including an old desk, chairs, a table, cupboards, consoles and screens, among others, to the state department of archives — which he headed as director at the time — at their depreciated book value.
Varsity playing along?
And even the university acted swifty, approving the sale proposal. No inventory of the items sold was made by the university or the department that bought them. It was roughly two truckloads of antique furniture and paintings, transported to an unknown destination.
The issue has cropped up within the university after IAS officer Anurag Verma, as acting V-C, had marked an inquiry to a three-member panel of professors who said the DO letter of Randhawa “looks forged”, as the signatures were “printed with scanning”.
Acting on that report, Verma through the registrar wrote to the state secretary, cultural affairs and archives, highlighting that the original signatures were missing on the DO letter. It noted that instead of making payment through cheque, some person paid in cash, which is against government rules. The registrar also sought details of where the purchased items were displayed.
Surminder Sira, assistant professor at the university who has lodged a complaint over the issue, said, “It’s very strange that a committee of the university finalised the proceeding for sale of antiques in a day. I have personally witnessed that the material was purchased by private dealers, who shifted it to Europe and are now selling as rare antiques.”
He alleged that some university officials are also “beneficiaries of this illegal trade of antiques”.
“Everything in the deal is fishy. I have already made a fresh complaint for a vigilance probe,” he said.
Randhawa, meanwhile, didn’t respond to phonecalls for his comment.