By Arun Pratap Singh
DEHRADUN, 2 Nov: Uttarakhand Government claims that it is committed towards zero tolerance to corruption. However, going by the action of the government and its lax attitude towards taking major scams to their logical conclusion, this claimed commitment towards zero tolerance to corruption is hardly visible! One such case is the infamous scholarship scam. It is only now that some action is seen and Joint Director of Social Welfare department and one of the major accused, Geetaram Nautiyal was arrested and has been sent to judicial custody now. Nautiyal was yesterday sent to 14 days of judicial custody by ADJ Second KKS Pandey. It is pertinent to point out here that Nautiyal was given a long rope by those in power even as he was in the hiding and making efforts to secure bail. It was only after the Supreme Court not only rejected his anticipatory bail but also directed his immediate arrest that Nautiyal was forced to surrender before the SIT conducting the inquiry into the scam. Even then, there are some big names, some of them owners of some of the biggest institutes of Dehradun, who are still roaming free and they have not even been interrogated so far. It may be recalled that the scholarship is probably the biggest scam of Uttarakhand. A large number of private and government colleges and institutes were given scholarship for eligible students particularly under the reserved categories since past many years. However, in reality, scholarships were claimed in name of non-eligible or even fake students (not actually studying in the colleges) by these colleges and institutes for long time and the funds embezzled. What is even more shocking is the fact that this was done in connivance with the senior most officials from the Social Welfare Department of the state. In fact the possibility of involvement of some bureaucrats then in charge of the department also can’t be ruled out. Reasons for such suspicion are very obvious since all along when this scam was happening, no audits if at all conducted, could detect the scam. No verification was ordered by the officers to ensure that the scholarships were indeed going to those in need or not! In one such case, a class five student was shown as a B Tech student and scholarship drawn in his name! Some of the institutes and colleges which have drawn scholarship in name of students belonging to Uttarakhand are in fact located in UP, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan. Clearly, this magnitude of scam allegedly crossing an amount of Rs 500 crores, could not have been carried out without not just the connivance of the social welfare department but at the behest of the officers from the department.Inquiry in such cases with links to several states ought to have been handed over to CBI but no such interest was shown by the government thus raising question whether the government is really interested to take this case to its logical conclusion and punish the guilty or not. Many of the leading institutes located in Uttarakhand are involved in the scam and some of these institutes belong to family members or relatives of politicians from Uttarakhand. This is also another reason why the probe had been going very slow and there was reluctance on part of the government as well as senior officers of the state to act strictly against the institutes. While brother of one Congress leader from Haridwar district, who runs an institute in the districtwas arrested for a while for his involvement, relatives of some ruling party leaders have managed to evade arrest so far. However, since the court has taken cognisance of the case, therefore these institute owners realise that they could soon be in trouble and therefore have offered to return the scholarship grants unduly received and embezzled by them. Sources tell that large amounts of bribes were paid in form of commissions regularly to senior officers of the department in order to get these scholarships. Unfortunately, none of the scholarships were granted by the respective colleges to the eligible students. Whatever action is now seen is due to courts, the sources further admitted. The SIT conducting inquiry into the case was set up by the Uttarakhand High Court. The SIT team is headed by IPS TC Manjunathandhas so far arrested 13 operators of 12 private educational institutions in Haridwar district. In addition, the SIT has also arrested five district level officers of the Social Welfare department. It may be also recalled that the administration had been very reluctant to act against senior government officers linked to the scam. In fact, only after lot of media slander, the government permitted action against Nautiyal and Deputy Director Anurag Shankhdhar, who is currently out on bail.