Fire spitting Salman on the run
Even as the Union Law Minister, Salman Khurshid huffs and puffs and turns red denying charges of his NGO embezzling fund meant for the differently-abled, he could possibly be in deep trouble. A suave, articulate, media friendly man, Khurshid has now turned against the media. He is also on a threatning spree. A rattled Khurshid senses that he and his wife Louise could possible be in the line of fire with regard to the Dr Zakir Hussain Memorial Trust. Till now both the government and the Congress Party is standing by him and maintaining that there is no question of his resignation.
The controversy that his NGO has embezzled funds has deepened with the Bulandshahr handicapped welfare officer saying his predecessor never signed on the documents of the beneficiaries shown by the Zakir Hussain Trust.
The official, Sushil Kumar Gautam said that his predecessor had told the State government that her signature on a report on equipment distributed to 42 differently abled people was forged. He said that the Block Development Officers (BDO) are now conducting a physical check on the beneficiaries. He says that so far only two of the four BDO’s have submitted their reports. According to the report, in Sayana all four named have benefited, while in Jehangirabad block, only one benefited. The charge is that the trust did not give them any information on the camps it held.
It was further claimed that the director of the handicapped welfare, the UP government wrote to the district welfare officer Bulandshahr in June 2011 to verify 42 beneficiaries and the signature of the officer. “Shrimati Rashmi” who was then in-charge said the signature wasn’t hers.
The alleged scam and probe into this has apparently been going on for quite some time and the ruling UP government was reportedly aware that there were charges of fraud in the form of forged signatures. There are also reports that an inspection report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) validating allegations of misappropriation of funds meant for the differently abled.
The inspection report prepared as part of the federal auditor’s scrutiny into the implementation of centrally-sponsored schemes for the differently abled, said expenses claimed to have been incurred by the Dr Zakir Hussain Memorial Trust, registered at 4 Gulmohar Avenue in New Delhi’s Jamia Nagar, were bogus. It also said that contrary to its claims, the trust did not organise relief camps or distribute tricycles and hearing aids among the differently-abled.
The CAG pointed out that invoice documents submitted by Khurshid’s trust showed that the purchase of tricycles and hearing aids were allegedly distributed among the physically challenged happened after the camps had been held. While the purchases were made in July 2010, the camps were held in January-March 2010. Louise Khurshid claimed that the “document is merely an excerpt from an initial internal inspection report which seeks from the ministry of social justice and empowerment certain clarifications.”
She argued that the auditor had not questioned any of the functionaries of the trust, maintaining that there was no misappropriation of funds.
The CAG’s inspection report also rapped the UP government and Union Ministry of Social Justice for failing to scrutinise the information furnished by the trust relating to holding of camps and distribution of aids and appliances and, in fact, suggested that a grant of Rs 71.5 lakh be recovered from the trust. It pulled up the ministry for releasing an additional grant of Rs 68.25 lakh in March 2011 without verifying the earlier spending.
It cited reports of UP district collectors where the scheme was supposed to have been implemented, the Union Ministry of Social Justice and the findings of its own inspectors to conclude that the trust made fake claims that it distributed centrally-provided appliances and aids among the differently-abled in 17 UP districts.
The beleaguered UPA government, reeling from a series of scams that have cost the exchequer thousands of crores, now finds itself under fire from the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church which has taken strong exception to the Centre and Kerala’s blatant appeasement of Muslims. The Laity Voice, a publication of the Commission of Laity of the Syro-Malabar church, has commented in an editorial that what the government is implementing are simply Muslim welfare schemes which address the problems of Muslims while ignoring the Catholic community, who make up a sizeable minority in Kerala. The editorial is scathing of the Centre’s pandering to the Muslim League—which enjoys enormous clout in the State—for electoral gains and says the move is hurting the average Christian who is finding it difficult to make both ends meet. The magazine goes on to say, “It is a sad fact that the Kerala Government has a feeling that the term minorities refers to Muslims alone. It is forgetting that the pre-examination centres—where Muslim youth alone are being given training—are meant for all minorities.”
The magazine says it is unfair on the part of the Congress-led front to give this step-motherly treatment to the Christian community and comments, “It is unfortunate that the picture of the ordinary Christian toiling in the coastal and mountain regions to keep life going has not attracted the attention of the minorities recommendations panel of the Planning Commission.” The editorial also expressed its disappointment about the silence maintained on this sensitive issue by the peoples’ representatives from the Christian community.