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Fresh poser on IIT director

- Vigilance panel seeks HRD ministry reply on Patna tech hub boss

New Delhi, April 4: Corruption watchdog Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has asked the human resource development (HRD) ministry to explain how a IIT-Kharagpur professor, indicted by CBI in a case of irregularity, got vigilance clearance to become the IIT-Patna director in 2009.

Acting on a complaint filed by a fellow IIT-Kharagpur faculty, the CVC has wondered how come the tainted professor, A.K. Bhowmick, was given vigilance clearance, a key requirement for appointment to a director’s post in an IIT.

Bhowmick’s continuation as IIT-Patna director has now come under question following the CVC raising question over the vigilance clearance given to him.

Normally, the ministry seeks vigilance clearance from CVC before nominating a candidate for the post of director of an IIT or vice-chancellor of a central university.

The President, the Visitor of these institutions, clears the appointment.

The clearance is given by the CVC following recommendations from the chief vigilance officer (CVO) of the HRD ministry and CVO of the institute concerned. The CVOs recommend vigilance clearance after examining the career record of the person.

However, in Bhowmick’s case, neither did the CVC give vigilance clearance nor was it sought from the CVC. Earlier, the CBI had indicted three professors of IIT-Kharagpur, including Bhowmick, in a case of irregularity involving a Coal India Limited project.

“It is unclear whether the CVO of IIT-Kharagpur or that of the ministry gave vigilance clearance suo motu to facilitate Bhowmick’s appointment,” a ministry official said.

Bhowmick was selected for the post of director of the newly started IIT-Patna in January, 2009. The Visitor’s clearance was given in May, 2009 after which he was appointed.

The CBI investigated the case of irregularities in the project involving design, development and implementation of training on the application software, Coalnet, given by CIL to IIT-Kharagpur in two phases in 2001 and 2004.

The CBI recommended the institute to initiate major penalty proceedings against Bhowmick, R.N. Banerjee and minor penalty proceedings against P.P. Chakraborty.

The CBI found that the project was outsourced to a private firm in violation of the agreement signed between IIT and CIL.

The CIL had awarded the work to IIT-Kharagpur on July 3, 2001, for Rs 8.9 crore. According to the conditions of the work order, IIT was not supposed to outsource any part of the job to any other organisation without approval of CIL. However, CBI found that IIT-Kharagpur outsourced the entire job to M/s TCG Software Pvt. Ltd on July 12 of the same year.

There has been allegation of irregularity in Coalnet phase II, a Rs 18.8 crore project. An agreement was signed between IIT-Kharagpur and CIL on January 19, 2004, for this project and the IIT outsourced the entire job to the same firm two days after the signing of the agreement.

The CBI investigated the matter on an anonymous complaint. It said Bhowmick and Banerjee were primarily responsible for outsourcing of the project, while Chakraborty “misrepresented to CIL that the work had not been outsourced to TCG”.

The HRD ministry then forwarded the CBI report to the institute for initiating action. But the board of governors of IIT-Kharagpur in its meeting in December, 2011, rejected the CBI’s recommendations.

Banerjee has contested the CBI’s findings that the project was outsourced. He told The Telegraph a few days ago that IIT-Kharagpur was in “total control over the project but it hired manpower from outside for the project”.

“There is no financial irregularity found by CBI. We took the project as a challenge. Twelve professors of IIT were involved in this project. But we hired manpower from outside. If that is an irregularity, it is procedural irregularity,” Banerjee said.

The IIT Kharagpur’s board of governors on December 12, 2012, decided to quash the report on the basis of legal advice. The legal advice said the institute should write to CBI to withdraw the report.

However, the CVC has overruled the decision of the IIT Kharagpur’s board of governors to quash the CBI report. It issued a letter on February 19 stating that the CVC was in agreement with the CBI recommendations for initiation of major penalty proceedings against Bhowmick and Banerjee and initiation of minor penalty proceedings against Chakraborty.

In view of this case, Chakraborty, who was selected for the post of director of IIT-Kharagpur last year, is yet to get vigilance clearance from CVC.

Bhowmick’s continuation as IIT-Patna director has now come under question following the CVC raising question over the vigilance clearance given to him.