Punjab bought textbooks for higher prices; probe reveals violations

Punjab education department purchased books and science kits of worth crores for students of primary and upper primary classes under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan flouting the centre’s guidelines, a fact-finding team sent by the Human Resource Development Ministry has found while probing an alleged scam in the state.

According to sources, the four-member probe team noted that the state education department purchased the books and science kits from private publishers in higher prices while it was supposed to get them published and procure through the state’s text book corporation as per rules.

“The report prima facie suggests there were some procedural lapses in the purchase of books and other materials by the state education department,” a source in the Ministry said adding the report was being gone through by the officials concerned and the Ministry will soon take further action on it.

The central probe team visited the state last month to carry out investigations into the scam allegedly to the tune of over Rs 9 crore. It carried out its investigation between June 12 and 14 and questioned several officials in the state education department.

It also looked into quality of purchased items and matching pricing. The committee’s report suggesting violation of rules in purchasing books may spark a fresh political controversy in the state, with the Congress, the main opposition party, accusing Education Minister Sikander Singh Maluka of involvement in the alleged scam.

HRD Minister MM Pallam Raju constituted the team to probe the scam following request by a delegation of Punjab PCC representatives led by state legislature party leader Sunil Jakhar that met the minister here last month.  Jakhar also brought the issue before Congress general secretary Shakeel Ahmed soon after he was made in-charge of party affairs in Punjab recently.

The alleged scam came to light after books with some vulgar contents and sexist remarks were supplied to some of the schools in the state  earlier this year.

These books, supplied by the state education department, were approved by a panel of five government officials and supplied to schools by the Punjab education department.

The books meant for the students up to Class V referred to girls as "husn phuljharian, shehar diyaan kudiyaan (city girls as pretty as sparklers)", panjfooti talwar (five-foot tall sword).

The state government initially admitted that books dispatched to schools under the inspection of Director General School Education Kahan Singh Pannu were of sub-standard quality and had inappropriate content, which may create wrong impression on the minds of children.

In May, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal ordered a judicial probe into the alleged book scam. It was announced that the enquiry would be conducted by a retired judge of Punjab and Haryana high court Justice A N Jindal. The probe, however, is yet to begin.

Comments (+)