Gamang urges PM to order CBI probe into OKCL scam

Bhubaneswar: Senior BJP leader and former chief minister Giridhar Gamang has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to initiate a CBI probe into the scam in the allotment of scholarships by the Odisha Knowledge Corporation Limited (OKCL). The scholarships are give by the state Higher Education department.

In a letter to the Prime Minister on Tuesday, Gamang said the State Higher Education department had started ‘Medhabruti’ (merit scholarship) scheme for giving financial assistance to the students of the state giving impression to the people of that the scheme is being sponsored by the state government, which is not at all true.

He said the scholarship scheme is partly or completely funded by the Centre through “Central Scheme of Scholarship for College and University Students” under the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). The Centre provides scholarships to students through the ministries of Tribal Affairs, Social Justice & Empowerment, Minority Affairs, Labour & Employment, Home, Department of School Education & Literacy, Department of Higher Education and Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities.

“But the manner in which the state government has handled MHRD schemes raises a lot of questions on how other scholarship schemes of the above mentioned organisations are being handled. Nobody knows if it has engaged some private company like OKCL to distribute the funds. So this matter needs to be investigated,” Gamang pointed out.

He said while going through the National Scholarship portal, he found out that a good number of educational institutes of Odisha are registered with all the departments under this portal. These institutes are approved by the Centre or various departments to facilitate the students of these institutes to avail scholarship under various suitable schemes.

“I am sure that the list of these institutes must have been provided by the state government to the Centre. Otherwise it may not have been possible to make such a comprehensive list. It is quite clear that the state government is hiding the share of Central funds in the Medhabruti scheme since the work flow chart of the portal indicates the involvement of the state machinery,” the BJP leader maintained.

Informing the Prime Minister that whatever amount has been received by the state Higher Education department, is directly transferred to OKCL to debit it in the student’s account, Gamang said in a recent RTI query, the state government had said OKCL is a private company.

“The question is how the state government can entrust a private company to operate public money. It clearly suggests that a part of the money or whole money is being siphoned off by vested interest people with the help of OKCL by giving false data. The Higher Education department is being run by OKCL and the magnitude of the scam is increasing by the day with fresh revelations,” he claimed.

Citing another instance, Gamang said it has come to his knowledge that out of around 2,500 students selected for the scholarship scheme under ‘Medhabruti’, money could not be transferred to around 1,500 students due to their failure in giving bank account details.

“With such a huge number of bank transactions getting rejected, it creates a lot of doubt and suspicion. As these students are doing their Graduation and Post Graduation across various streams, it is not easy to believe that these students do not even know how to fill up the forms. There is no explanation on where this money is kept or used,” the BJP leader said in his letter.

Reminding the Prime Minister of his previous letter to him on November 24, 2015 on OKCL and the fresh revelations on the nexus between the state Higher Education department, Gamang urged him to initiate a CBI probe into this matter at the earliest.