Days after the Himachal Pradesh high court expressed displeasure over the investigation into the multi-crore scholarship scam in the state, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested seven persons, including top employees of various private educational institutes, officials said on Saturday.
Those in the CBI net are Gulshan Sharma, owner of ITFT, New Chandigarh; Vikas Bansal, Rajneesh and registrar Jogendra Singh of Himalayan Group of Professional Institute, Kala Amb; Apex Institute, Indri, Karnal; Sanjeev Prabhakar of ICL Institute, Ambala, and registrar Panna Lal and Shivendra.
The CBI arrested the accused from Punjab, Haryana, Panchkula and Nahan. The investigation revealed that they had connived with employees of nationalised banks to siphon the money granted for scholarships. Employees of the educational institutions had created fake accounts of students in banks outside the state. Sleuths also found out that employees of ITFT, Himalayan group, and NIELIT, along with KC Group based in Una, Sukhvidra Group and Vidya Jyoti in Kharar tampered with the records to illegally obtain the scholarship amounts meant for the students.
The institutions had submitted a fake list of students and there were no real beneficiaries from the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes. CBI sleuths had visited remote regions, including Bharmaur and Pangi in Chamba district, Manali, Lahaul and Spiti, Kangra and Kullu’s Banjar to verify the addresses of students whose names were submitted by KC Group of Institutions.
The scam was unearthed in 2019 following reports that students of government schools in Spiti valley had not been paid scholarship amount.
The government had recommended a CBI probe into the matter while the education department conducted an internal investigation to ascertain the veracity of the scam.
The inquiry conducted by the education department revealed that more than 2.38 lakh eligible students were deprived of scholarships under various centrally sponsored schemes while ineligible candidates were given admissions and fictitious bank accounts were opened for the payment of scholarships by various institutions.
The scam remained hidden as people who created an online portal for the disbursement of the scholarship scheme and those who actually transferred the amount were the same, the inquiry pointed.
Scholarships amounting to ₹226 crore were disbursed through fake admissions and money was deposited in different bank accounts both within and outside the state.
Some fake accounts in Haryana, Chandigarh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana were tracked while other suspected accounts are under scanner.