Ranchi, July 16: A CBI team apparently visited Shillong to probe into charges of fiscal anomalies running into crores and cronyism against Darlando T. Khathing, Central University of Jharkhand’s first vice chancellor and currently a professor at North-Eastern Hill University in the Meghalaya capital.
Central University of Jharkhand (CUJ), set up by an Act in Parliament in 2009 in Brambe near Ranchi, has been mired in controversy since July as the CBI started preliminary investigation into various aspects of Khathing’s five-year tenure here, which ended this February.
“A preliminary probe was lodged in which former VC of CUJ Khathing, then registrar Shyam Narayan and serving deputy registrar K.P. Mohanta have been named suspects. Corruption at every level, from construction to furniture procurement, seems to have prevailed. Some appointments were allegedly made by Khathing in violation of UGC guidelines,” CBI joint director (Bihar-Jharkhand) A.K. Singh said.
However, Khathing told The Telegraph over phone from Shillong that the sleuths had not questioned him.
“Since last year, CBI has been looking for files and I gave them everything. I don’t know who is coining the story of a scam in CUJ when I was VC. I am an academic and know my responsibility. CBI has not come to question me, some newspapers are airing rumours,” he said.
But reports suggest Khathing and his team allegedly awarded most building construction work of the central university to their chosen contractors, ignoring the tender protocol.
The Telegraph possesses vital documents, including copies of complaints that first made the CBI look into the matter in December 2012 after a nudge from Union HRD ministry and central vigilance commission.
Since 2009, the Centre has given the state’s only central university Rs 300 crore for infrastructure development.
A surfeit of funds may have resulted in an underground economy of crony capitalism in the varsity.
DSP of CBI A.K. Jha, who first examined the matter, found merit in the case and recommended a probe, but the agency registered it after a year.
A CBI source, citing two cases of work order allotment, said Khathing allegedly favoured a certain firm, BP Construction, and granted it projects of Rs 15 lakh and Rs 5 lakh arbitrarily in 2012, snubbing lowest bidder Yashaswi Construction.
When Ranchi-based owner of Yashaswi, Dharmendra Singh filed an RTI, demanding why his firm didn’t bag the work order, the CUJ did not reply.
“Not much is known about BP Construction. It did not even bid in response to the CUJ’s tender. It’s all very vague. This is just an instance of the kind of arbitrariness with which work orders were granted,” the official said.
The CBI is also looking into alleged corruption in the purchase of furniture and electronic appliances worth apparently Rs 4 crore, including air-conditioners, during Khathing’s tenure. Again, vendors were allegedly chosen at Khathing’s behest.
In 2010, Khathing also appointed his “good friend” Narendra Pal Garg, who had retired from NEHU, Shillong, as an engineer. Khathing, who was a registrar in NEHU before his stint as VC in CUJ, roped in Garg on contract, giving him a fancy title of officer on special duty (projects), a salary of Rs 85,000 a month and free furnished accommodation. There is no provision for this post under UGC norms.