In 2018-19, Bihar used SC / ST scholarship funds to build roads and embankments

Routes. Embankment. Colleges of medicine. Government buildings. These are among the projects that the government of Bihar, in 2018-19, embezzled more than 8,800 crore rupees into a fund intended exclusively for an SC / ST scholarship – for which it cited a lack of money and denied to many eligible. students for about six years.

This embezzlement of the Listed Castes Sub-Plan (SCSP) fund was reported by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in his 2018-19 report on Bihar’s finances, The Indian Express has learned. It took place despite arrangements from the Planning Commission (now the NITI Aayog) stating that the SCSP fund is intended to extend the centrally sponsored post-matrix scholarship (PMS) to SC / ST students whose annual family income is less than Rs. 2.5 lakh.

The Indian Express reported on August 10 (“Bihar refuses SC / ST scholarship for 3 years, says technical issues with portal”) that the government of Bihar has kept PMS on ice since 2018-19, citing a “technical problem” with the national candidacy. portal. In fact, most SC / ST students in Bihar had been denied this scholarship for six years.

The scholarship – 60% of which is funded by the Union’s Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment – is for educational and vocational courses above grade 10 up to masters level.

According to the CAG report on the use of scholarship funds:

– The state embezzled Rs 2,076.99 crore from the state electricity department and also loaned it Rs 460.84 crore.

– He embezzled Rs 3,081.34 crore for major road projects.

– Rs 1,202.23 crore was spent on the construction of dike and flood control projects.

– Rs 1,222.94 crore was used for medical schools

– He used Rs 776.06 crore for the construction of an agricultural department office and other buildings.

The 2018-2019 CAG report – the observations of which have been accepted by the government – states: “The Committee observes from the conclusions of the CAG that funds intended for the development of CS and S&T have been diverted to other purposes. The committee takes the matter seriously and recommends that NITI Ayog ensure that funds allocated to the respective SC / ST development programs are not in any way diverted for other purposes, ”The Indian Express learned.

But in its response to the CAG, the state finance department actually agreed that the embezzlement of SC / ST heads is prohibited. “As a result of the attribution of AWSC monitoring [Allocation for Welfare of Scheduled Castes] In the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment, regular meetings are held with all relevant ministries / departments to verify all types of irregularities in AWSC spending…. financial progress made by ministries / departments is made in real time. The Ministry of Finance (August 23, 2016) made it clear that reallocation of funds from heads of SC / ST to other heads is prohibited, ”he said.

And the government doubled its stance on SC / ST funds when Bihar Finance Minister Tarkishore Prasad said in the 2021-22 State Budget Highlights: Ends.

Bihar’s additional chief secretary, education, Sanjay Kumar, said the finance ministry was the competent authority to comment on the embezzlement. Ministry of Finance officials contacted by The Indian Express declined to comment on the matter, saying the ministry has already responded to the CAG. .

Meanwhile, the state government has again started soliciting applications for the scholarship program, Kumar said.

In a response to a PIL from the Patna High Court on the scholarship issue, the government said the shortage of funds was one of the reasons the scholarship was suspended.

The High Court has now asked the state government to respond to a cross-affidavit from the petitioner’s lawyer asking how the state embezzled the SCSP fund while citing a shortage of funds.

Alka Verma, lawyer for petitioner Rajiv Kumar, resident of Samastipur, told The Indian Express: “After what the 2018-19 CAG report says, there is not much to say on how whose sacrosanct fund has been misappropriated. It is also surprising how the government of Bihar cites the shortage of funds for a program in which the Center can donate unlimited funds to a state above the state’s engaged responsibility. According to previous guidelines, this was a 75:25 Central State share. According to new guidelines, this is a 60:40 central state share. “

Spending below limits

The Flagship Postgraduate Scholarship benefits around 60 lakh SC / ST students in the country each year. Bihar alone has around five lakh eligible students each year. The program is working well in other states, including neighboring Uttar Pradesh. Under this program, a state is entitled to claim any amount from the Center in excess of its incurred annual liability of approximately Rs 115 crore. Bihar barely spent around Rs 60 crore per year between 2017-18 and 2019-20. As it spent far less than its engaged state responsibility, Bihar was unable to claim any central share during this period.

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