By Arun Pratap Singh
Dehradun, 8 Oct: In what can be aptly described as the biggest action so far, Uttarakhand STF today arrested former chairman of Uttarakhand Subordinate Services Selection Commission (UKSSSC) RBS Rawat, former secretary Manohar Kanyal and former Controller of Examination RS Pokharia during the course of investigation into the alleged rigging of Village Panchayat Development Officer (VPDO) recruitment examination, that was conducted by UKSSSC in the year 2016.
This is the biggest action taken so far by the investigating agencies in the recruitment examination case. The investigation in this particular case had been going on for a long time. In fact, the allegations in this particular recruitment had surfaced in the year 2016 itself and the then CM Harish Rawat had ignored the allegations. Later in 2017, an inquiry had been ordered into the allegations and for this a committee chaired by Additional Chief Secretary had been ordered.
The matter had reached the Uttarakhand High Court and in the year 2019, the results were cancelled on the court orders. The inquiry had revealed irregularities but nothing concrete happened after that.
However, now that irregularities surfaced in several recruitments conducted by UKSSSC and even by other institutions that Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami took a strong stand on the issue, and this forced the investigation agencies to speed up the investigation into this case. Uttarakhand STF has been proactively investigating the irregularities not only in this case, but also in recent recruitments and many arrests have been made.
The arrest of the then Chairman of UKSSSC, RBS Rawat and the then Secretary of the Commission, Manohar Singh Kanyal is certainly the biggest arrest in any case of corruption in Uttarakhand so far. RBS Rawat is a retired Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer who had been the Head of the Forest Department for a long time and had earned lot of goodwill during his tenure as Head of the Forest Department. He had been appointed as founding chairman of UKSSSC after his retirement from the forest department after the establishment of UKSSSC for recruitments related to subordinate services. He however did not continue for long as Chairman of UKSSSC in May, 2016. The reasons cited were personal and it is not still clear why he had resigned then.
The most suspicious role in the VPDO scam appears to be that of the then Secretary of UKSSSC, Manohar Singh Kanyal as the investigation has revealed that not only the OMR sheets (Answer sheets that can be checked optically through computer scanning) had been tempered with but the final result of the recruitment test was prepared at the residence of Kanyal. He is currently posted as Joint Secretary in Uttarakhand Secretariat after his transfer from UKSSSC as he was a Uttarakhand cadre officer only. Sources claim that his involvement in rigging of examinations conducted even after his transfer from UKSSSC can’t be ruled out.
This big action in the VPDO recruitment scam comes six years after the test was held. Reacting to the arrests made today, Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami appreciated the action of the STF and stated that the investigating agencies were doing their job sincerely. He again reiterated, “No one will be spared who had robbed the youth of Uttarakhand through unfair means. The government will ensure that all future recruitment examinations are held in a clean and transparent manner. Today’s action is an example that in future no one can dare to falsify these examinations”.
Chronology of VPDO Recruitment:Village Panchayat Development Officer Selection Test was conducted by UKSSSC on 6 March 2016 in 236 examination centres in all 13 districts. A total of 87196 candidates had participated in the competitive examination in the said examination. The result of the examination was declared on 30 March 2016. However, in view of the allegations and complaints of rigging of the results, an inquiry committee was constituted by the Uttarakhand Government in the year 2017, under the chairmanship of the then Additional Chief Secretary. In view of the findings of the Inquiry Committee and the directions of the Uttarakhand High Court, the result of the said examination was cancelled.In the year 2019, as per the instructions of Secretary Personnel and Vigilance Section, the investigation of the case was handed over to Vigilance Department.The Vigilance inquiry had confirmed irregularities in the conduct of the examination and tampering of the OMR Sheets and as a result in the year 2020, on confirmation of irregularities in the said examination, crime case number 01/20, under sections 420/468/467/120B of IPC and section 13 (1) Prevention of Corruption Act were registered in the year 2020. Permission for prosecution was granted by the government. Following the instructions of the Chief Minister in the month of August 2022, the investigation of the said case was transferred to the STF. The STF carried its investigation and sent the OMR sheets related to the said examinations for forensic test to FST laboratory.The FSL test confirmed the tampering of the OMR sheets. During the course of investigation, it was also revealed that the SO found that the work of OMR scanning / final result preparation related to the said examination was done at the house of the then Secretary of UKSSSC Manohar Singh Kanyal.So far more than two dozen candidates have been identified during the investigation and their statements have been recorded by the STF. During the investigation, the statements of many important witnesses have also been recorded in the court, which is expected to become important piece evidence in the case. Three accused namely Mukesh Kumar Sharma, Mukesh Kumar and Rajesh Pal had already been arrested by the STF in the past.Apart from RBS Rawat and Manohar Singh Kanyal, the then Controller of Examinations at UKSSSC, Rajendra Singh Pokharia, resident of Majri Mafi village in Mohkampur Dehradun has also been arrested. All the three were produced in the Court to seek remand.