Top IAS named in grants swindle

PATNA TO CHENNAI, HEAT ON OFFICERS

By Ramashankar in Patna
  • Published 22.12.16
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SM Raju

Patna, Dec. 21: Senior IAS officer S.M. Raju is among 16 persons accused by the vigilance bureau of committing financial irregularities to the tune of Rs 9.75 crore in a scheme meant for granting scholarships to students from the scheduled castes and tribes.

The vigilance investigation bureau lodged the complaint against Raju and 15 other public servants and middlemen at the vigilance police station in Patna yesterday. Raju, a 1991 batch IAS officer who is also known as an inventor of Ayurvedic medicines, is at present posted as additional member in the board of revenue.

This is the second time that Raju has been booked on a corruption charge. In 2003, he was arrested in Karnataka on the directive of the southern state's Lokayukta for allegedly accepting Rs 21 lakh as bribe from the principal of a college to help students clear the entrance test for the Industrial Training Institute (ITI).

Raju, who was then posted in Karnataka on inter-state deputation, was immediately repatriated from his home state to his parent cadre - Bihar - on the recommendation of the government in Bangalore. The bribery case against him is still pending in Karnataka because the Centre is yet to sanction his prosecution on the corruption charge.

Sources in the vigilance bureau here said that the scholarship money was paid to institutes by furnishing fictitious names of students with the connivance of officials of the SC/ST welfare department. Even the scholarship amount was disbursed among fake and non-existent students and institutions in Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Telangana, causing massive loss to the state exchequer.

The funds were meant for post-matriculation SC/ST students pursuing professional and technical courses in colleges and educational institutions outside Bihar during the financial year 2013-14. While a sum of Rs 9.55 crore was disbursed by the SC/ST welfare department for students belonging to the Scheduled Castes, the remaining amount (Rs 20 lakh) was withdrawn for those from the Scheduled Tribes.

Raju was posted as secretary in the SC/ST welfare department when the alleged irregularities occurred. Till the time of the filing of this report, he couldn't be reached for his comments. A senior official of the board of revenue said: "He (Raju) is currently on leave." Efforts to contact chief secretary Anjani Kumar Singh also proved futile as he was busy in an official meeting.

The irregularities came to the fore earlier this year when a batch of 60 students hailing from East Champaran district threatened to commit mass suicide for non-payment of scholarship to them. These students, enrolled in the Rajdhani Engineering College in Odisha's Bhubaneswar, were left in the lurch as the money wasn't paid to them.

"Preliminary investigation has revealed financial irregularities in disbursement of the scholarship funds," director-general (vigilance) Ravinder Kumar said today. He said the bureau has already launched its investigation after lodging the FIR.

Named in the vigilance FIR is then special secretary in the SC/ST welfare department Suresh Paswan.

Among the other officials whose names figure in the FIR are additional director (computer) Indrajeet Mukherjee, sub-divisional police officer Vidhan Chandra Rai and block development officer Sanjay Kumar - all posted in the SC/ST welfare department. Also named are the then secretary of Gonna Institute of Information Technology and Science, Vishakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh), G.B. Naidu, and former principal of Guntur Engineering College, also in Andhra Pradesh, B. Brahmaiah.

Two middlemen - Abdul Quadir and Rajeev Saxena, both residents of Patna - are also on the wanted list of the bureau. Arun Kumar Singh has been made investigating officer of the case.

Chief minister Nitish Kumar, while replying to a question in the Legislative Council in March this year, had promised strict action against those found guilty. He had prima facie admitted financial as well as administrative lapses and ordered for a probe by the vigilance bureau.

Raju recently hogged the limelight for coming up with a series of Ayurvedic medicines, including those for patients suffering from cancer.