Initial investigation by the CBI into the multi-crore scholarship scam reveals a deep-rooted nexus between government officials, private institutions and public sector banks to siphon-off funds meant for poorest of the poor students.
Students belonging to Scheduled Castes and Minorities were also deprived of scholarships to pursue basic education.
Sources in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) revealed to IANS that the scam in the scholarship fund meant for children from below poverty line (BPL) families was spread across Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab.
Though the scope of the investigation pursued by CBI's Shimla branch is limited to this region, sources said that the scam is widespread and similar complaints have been made in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and other parts of the country.
"In the interest of the poor and SC/ST students, the agency can take up more such cases if the matter is recommended to us by other states," said a highly-placed source in the CBI.
The agency's investigation revealed that institutions like Lovely Professional University and Karnataka University established centres in different states, including Himachal Pradesh, where documents of SC/ST and BPL students were collected but admissions not granted.
Later, with the connivance of officials of the Education Department and banks, fake bank accounts were opened on the basis of genuine documents(and addresses) secured by the centres.
For instance, almost 250 students of village Dehri in Himachal's Kangra district had applied at these centres, which took the documents of these students but did not give them admission.
Subsequently, a large number of fake accounts were opened in the State Bank of India and the Allahabad Bank on basis of documents submitted by the students and the bank officials did not verify the account holders, facilitating the scamsters' siphoning off the scholarship money.
Last month, the CBI conducted raids at multiple locations in northern India in the Rs 250 crore scholarship scam related to pre- and post-matric scholarship scheme. The CBI sleuths carried out the raids at 22 educational institutes across Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh and Haryana.
Besides the CBI, police in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh are also investigating scams related to scholarships where officials of the Education Department and private institutions have been found to be hand in glove.
In Uttar Pradesh, the scam relates to the Minority Department, where scholarships of poor Muslim students were fraudulently siphoned-off by corrupt officials.