The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Scam whiff in inflated figures

Darjeeling, June 27: A survey conducted by the DGHC shows that the number of students in the primary schools was inflated by 37,000 in a single year, indicating that there was a sinister design to embezzle crores of rupees from funds meant for various national education programmes.

The annual survey was conducted by District Information for School Education for three consecutive years. The reports together show an abnormal rise and fall in the number of primary schoolchildren in the 781 institutions within the DGHC areas.

While the total number of students during 2003-04 stood at 88,000, the number had increased to 1,25,561 in 2004-05. Another survey conducted in 2005-06 under the aegis of a new administration of the DGHC suggests the figure has again gone down by almost 45,000 to 80,0274 (see chart).

The education department uses these figures to distribute foodgrain for mid-day meal scheme, free textbooks and uniforms for girls of the primary schools.

According to mid-day meal norms, the Mother-Teachers' Association (which serves cooked meals to students) must prepare about 100 gm of rice per student per day. It is also supplied with 30 gm of dal per student per day and an additional Rs 2 per student per day as contingency expenses.

A.R. Dewan, who was the councillor in charge of primary education department from 1999 to 2005, said he was not authorised to speak on the issue. 'You should seek a clarification on the increase of students from the secretary (education department),' he said.

C.T. Bhutia, secretary, admitted that there was an abnormal rise in the number of students for the year 2004-2005. 'I too found it strange and directed that that we should revert back to the 2003-2004 figures).' Generally, the survey figures of 2003-04 are used for the financial year 2004-2005 and those of 2004-2005 for 2005-2006.

Bhutia, who took charge of the new department after Lakpa Rynden, said a major scam was averted. He, however, admitted that textbooks using the blown up figures were already given for printing by the time he took charge. 'However I distributed everything (textbooks, uniforms) as per the 2003-2004 figures. The excess books were distributed this year.'

Whatever Bhutia claims, the state government still lost crores as even the 2003-2004 figures shows that the number of students was still 8,000 more than the figures of 2005-2006. This loss is largely through the supply of foodgrain.

The question is who is to be held responsible for the exaggerated figures. 'Since I was not in charge then (when the figures were complied) I cannot say much,' said Bhutia.

Though the figures in the surveys are supposed to be in accordance with those supplied by teachers-in-charge of respective schools, sources said the compilation of 2004-2005 does not match the information provided by some schools.

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