Chandigarh, Aug 31 (PTI) Union minister Som Parkash on Monday claimed that the Centre has ordered a departmental probe into the alleged multi-crore post-matric SC scholarship scam in Punjab, drawing a sharp reaction from Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.
Parkash, who is a Union minister of state for commerce and industry, said he had raised the issue of alleged scholarship scam with Social Justice Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot.
In a statement, Parkash, a Hoshiarpur MP, said Gehlot while taking cognizance of the alleged scam has ordered a departmental probe into it.
A probe by Additional Chief Secretary Kripa Shankar Saroj into the post-matric scholarship scheme for Scheduled Caste students has discovered a Rs 55.71-crore scam.
Saroj submitted a report to the chief secretary in which he indicted Punjab minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot and some officials for allegedly causing a loss of Rs 55 crore to the state exchequer in the distribution of scholarship amounts.
According to the report, records pertaining to Rs 39 crore were found 'missing' while a sum of Rs 16.91 crore was paid to such institutions against which the 'audit teams had recommended a recovery'.
The Punjab chief minister took strong exception to an inquiry being ordered into the alleged scholarship scam by Gehlot without consulting the state government or waiting for the report of the chief secretary's investigation into the matter.
Reacting to Parkash's claim that a departmental inquiry had been ordered by the Social Justice Ministry, he said, 'If true, the move was yet another attack on the federal structure of the Indian constitutional polity.' Amarinder Singh, in a statement, alleged that the move was clearly aimed at eroding the state government's authority, as part of the 'BJP-led central government's agenda to undermine the governments in all non-BJP ruled states'.
'But his government will not succumb to such petty and motivated pressures by the BJP or any of its alliance partners, including the Shiromani Akali Dal,' he asserted.
Pointing out that the alleged scam into which the said inquiry has been ordered in fact took place in the 2015-2017 period under the erstwhile SAD-BJP regime, the CM said if the intent behind the so-called central government departmental investigation is to 'cover up' the BJP-SAD tracks in the case, it will not succeed.
'It was in fact during an audit ordered by his government that certain misappropriations came to light, which were now the subject matter of the chief secretary's inquiry,' he said.
The department had come across gaps and apparent misdemeanours in certain payments made to some colleges as per the funds sanctioned during the previous regime and it was then that he had decided to order the detailed probe, Amarinder Singh claimed.
The inquiry ordered by him was in line with the specific rules of governance and the only lawful course to take, he said, adding that any inquiry by a central department into a case relating to the state without consulting the latter was 'totally untenable'. PTI CHS VSD SNE SNE