Will continue to raise questions, Impartial inquiry not possible if Dharamsot remains minister: Partap Bajwa

Chandigarh, August 30, 2020 (Yes Punjab News)

Congress Rajya Sabha member and former PPCC Chief Partap Singh Bajwa today reacted to Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder’s Singh’s statement on Post Matric Scholarship Scam involving his Cabinet colleague Sadhu Singh Dharamsot.

Bajwa, in a detailed statement issued Sunday, said, the Chief Minister had attempted to draw a false equivalence between the Post Matric Scholarship Scam and allegations against officers from five different Ministries of Punjab, 16 years ago, while I was the PWD Minister of Punjab.

There is no comparison whatsoever between the two situations: Sadhu Singh Dharamsot the Minister for Social Justice, Empowerment and Minorities was charged by his own officer Kripa Shankar Saroj IAS of being involved in the scam in an enquiry.

The actions of the Minister and certain officers within the Ministry of Social Justice, Empowerment and Minorities in withdrawing Rs. 248.11 Crore for disbursal to colleges/institutions has been reported to be done under questionable circumstances.

The department has not been able to furnish records for Rs. 39 Crores. These facts of the case have been revealed in an internal report of the Ministry. It is not another allegation made from the comforts of a television studio during the prime-time debates.

Furthermore, it must be noted that the Minister reinstated Parminder Singh Gill as the Deputy Director in-charge of the scheme. In December 2019, Mr. Gill was suspended by the former Chief Secretary of Punjab, Karan Avtar Singh IAS.

It is ironic that the actions of the former Chief Secretary, who had the fullest support of the Chief Minister on every issue, even against the Cabinet of Punjab, are now being ignored. The actions of those involved were known to the Chief Secretary of Punjab as early as December 2019, who had ordered an enquiry into the working of the department.

On the other hand, the Bitumen Scam covered various ministries and their engineering wings like the PWD, PUDA (Ministry of Housing), Mandi Board (Ministry of Agriculture), Municipal Corporation Ludhiana (Local Self Government) and PSIEC (Ministry of Industries) and came to light on the basis of a diary recovered by an Income Tax Officer. While the scam came to light in 2004, the period it covered was of the previous SAD regime (1997-2002) and did not involve the Congress Government.

An FIR was registered by the Vigilance Bureau in 2004 in which 63 officers were named and 31 officers from the above departments were arrested. My name did not figure at any stage of investigation, directly or indirectly.

After passing through various stages of investigation the Vigilance Bureau filed the Closure Report during the tenure of S. Parkash Singh Badal (SAD) as Chief Minister in July, 2014 before the Competent Court and the Court accepted the Closure Report.

The Chief Minister should keep in mind that I have asked for the resignation of Sadhu Singh Dharmsot for the duration of the investigation by an independent authority. I do not believe an impartial investigation can be conducted while the accused individual remains in a position of power with the potential to influence the course of the investigation.

It is clear that there are systemic issues within the Ministry, and an investigation must be conducted by an Honourable Justice of the Punjab & Haryana High Court in a time-bound manner, to ensure maximum transparency.

The present ‘Scholarship Scam’ has been uncovered due to an official enquiry conducted by Sh. Kripa Shankar Saroj, a senior IAS officer holding the rank of Additional Chief Secretary. If the Chief Minister feels that this report lacks truth, integrity and credibility, then the ACS should be held accountable.

Where has the need for a further enquiry by the Chief Secretary arisen, especially given that Sh. Saroj is an officer of similar seniority? The Chief Minister must ensure that the grant of scholarship to poor Scheduled Caste students and the payments to deserving students are not disrupted. The payments to students must continue.

As a Member of Parliament, representing the State of Punjab, I am duty-bound to raise pertinent questions against any Government, regarding matters of policy and governance. I do so with the hope of opening the eyes and ears of the Government of Punjab to serious issues that are affecting the daily lives of Punjabis.

The Indian National Congress was elected to govern the State in 2017 with a mandate to undo the 10 years of stagnation and corruption of the previous Shiromani Akali Dal regime. Why should we feel shy of discharging our duty honestly?

I will continue raising questions regarding the governance of the State. Any attempts to browbeat me into submission will not succeed. However, I am disappointed in the attempt of deflecting a serious matter into a personal attack on myself by the Chief Minister.

I do not wish to reduce this grave issue that has left minority students without access to higher education, to a personal bout of charges between the Chief Minister and myself.

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