With Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) carrying out raids at several places in Rs 250 crore scholarship scam in Himachal Pradesh, the issue is likely to rock state politics after Lok Sabha polls as politicians along with government officials are suspected to be hand in gloves with perpetrators.
Sources said the CBI officials had carried out raids at 22 places in Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and Himachal and most of these include premises of private educational institutions. These private institutions were suspected to be part of the syndicate that had siphoned scholarship grants from Centre to students belonging to Scheduled Caste (SC), Schedule Tribe (ST), Other Backward Classes (OBC) and minority communities.
The officials scanned records and gathered evidence from 22 private educational institutes in Chandigarh, Mohali, Nawanshahr, Ambala, Gurdaspur, Karnal, Una, Shimla, Solan, Sirmaur, Bilaspur, Chamba and Kangra on 14 May.
On 19 May too, the officials had searched three private educational institutes in Nawanshahr in Punjab and Ambala in Haryana. These institutions had allegedly received grants under the pre-matric and post-matric scholarship of Central government but the same didn’t reach the eligible beneficiaries from the state.
Sources said some officials of the Education Department in collusion with private colleges and universities had carried out the entire scam and the involvement of some politicians in the case couldn’t be ruled out.
Arrests are likely in the case in coming days and some high ranking officials of private universities might be arrested soon, sources added.
Though CBI hadn’t revealed much detail about the investigations major revelations are expected in coming days with arrests of senior officials of the Education Department in Himachal Pradesh. The raids have also created panic among authorities of 22 private universities as they are predicting a loss to reputation if the staff of their institutes is found to be involved in the case.
The entire scam took place for three years after 2014 wherein 360 students of remote districts of Lahaul Spiti and Kinnaur were deprived of the central grants for pursuing higher studies.
Overall, around 19,915 students, out of the total 2.38 lakh students who apply for these central scholarships from Himachal Pradesh, were affected and their scholarship funds were discontinued.
The state government had cross-checked the record of the students since the 2013-14. In the probe conducted by the Himachal Pradesh government, it was revealed that some institutes, operating from neighbouring states of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh were involved in the entire scam.
The involvement of private educational institutes of neighbouring states had prompted the state government to request the Union government for the Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the case. The educational institutes had allegedly siphon-off scholarship grants in fictitious bank accounts that were opened by them on forged documents.