NAGPUR: The special inquiry team (SIT) or task force probing the state’s scholarship scam has estimated that the total amount embezzled could go up to Rs 1,415 crore. The amount was gobbled up in the name of distributing post-matric government scholarships to more than 15 lakh students in 23,752 colleges between 2010 and 2016 through social justice and tribal welfare deparments.
A review meeting of officials of the SIT, formed in January last year and whose term is concluding in mid-February, took place at city police commissionerate on Tuesday. The departments concerned, however, continued not to cooperate with the SIT and have not even filed FIRs against the accused as mandated by the government.
SIT conducted special audits at 35 offices of social welfare department in eight districts and 29 project offices of tribal welfare department that along with its analysis of documents of various inquiries formed the basis of its interim reports. One such report, copy of which is with TOI, says crores of rupees were embezzled in various colleges. It states that scrutiny was underway to ascertain how several Government Resolutions (GR) were issued without the cabinet nod to facilitate the scam.
The colleges, in connivance with officials of these departments, had been granting scholarships to ineligible or even non-existent to tribal students or those belonging to backward castes. In some cases multiple scholarships were granted to same student without the student’s knowledge and the money siphoned off.The report claims Rs 2.88 crore was deposited back with the government after formation of SIT by the erring colleges administered under social justice department in eight districts out of Rs 44.53 crore embezzled. Similarly, Rs 11.16 crore was deposited by the institutes under tribal welfare department whereas the recoverable amount was Rs 71.02 crore. In Nandurbar district alone, the total recoverable amount was Rs 24.14 crore while only Rs 78.48 lakh was deposited after SIT began probe. The report also stated that several crores had been siphoned off by many colleges under Marathwada university.
It was after the formation of SIT, which is likely to get another extension under present city police chief K Venkatesh, around Rs 70.59 crore have been credited back to the treasury as per the second interim report submitted to the government. Of this amount, Rs 67 crore was the unused balance in the public ledger account (PLA). Only Rs 3.59 crore was actually returned by the institutes out of the total ‘recoverable’ amount of Rs 54.82 crore.
A senior officer, associated with the probe, claimed that only 14 FIRs had been lodged so far whereas the reality is shocking with the involvement of senior officers of tribal and social welfare departments having nexus with managements of the institutions across the state. Of these, two FIRs were lodged in city and are being probed by Economic Offences Wing (EOW) under DCP Ishu Sindhu who has conducted raids on many colleges. One of the 10 offences registered at Gadchiroli had been shifted to State criminal investigation department (CID).
SIT report has observed that scholarships were granted based on duplicate transfer certificates issued ‘contrary to rules’, with glaring flaws like approving students in excess of authorized strength. Things like attendance in class and even examinations were ignored in many instances. The report also notes that maintenance fund to the tune of hundreds of crores had been returning to the banks as account numbers furnished were fake. It was also mentioned that recovered money after inquiries was not sent back to the treasury.