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New Delhi: The Congress has accused the Narendra Modi government of shifting Uttarakhand governor Baby Rani Maurya out of the state as a punishment for ordering an inquiry into a recruitment scam in the Uttarakhand Open University.
The issue of 56 appointments having been made without adherence to norms came to light following an audit which had been reported by local media.
Subsequently, Maurya, who is a Dalit leader and chancellor of the university, is learnt to have ordered a probe into the matter last month.
On Friday, September 10, Harish Rawat, former Uttarakhand chief minister and Congress campaign committee in-charge in the state, had raised the issue through a tweet, without going into the details.
#फर्जीवाड़ा, भाजपा की नियति बन गई है। आदरणीया पूर्व गवर्नर श्रीमती #बेबी_रानी_मौर्य जी के अचानक इस्तीफे के बाद मुक्त विश्वविद्यालय में की भर्तियों में हुआ घोटाला, बहुत चर्चा में आ गया है।
— Harish Rawat (@harishrawatcmuk) September 10, 2021
Neither the Uttarakhand government nor the state’s BJP cadre has commented on the issue.
However, talking to The Wire, Uttarakhand Congress president Ganesh Godiyal claimed that Maurya’s departure from the state clearly had to do with her ordering an investigation into the recruitment scam.
‘Made at minister’s behest’
Elaborating on the issue, Goidyal said, “Actually there were several scams in the education department of which one scam was this in which 56 appointments were made. In this case, the education minister, without any advertisement and without bringing it to the notice of the government, got 56 people – which included his relatives and known ones – appointed in Uttarakhand Open University.”
Godiyal said the governor had ordered a probe into the matter last month.
The appointments had taken place, allegedly without following procedure, several months ago but only came to light recently. “These happened in a very hush-hush manner. Permanent jobs and full pay scales were provided to the appointed persons,” he said.
Godiyal said that the appointments were made from the level of Class 3 staff all the way up to the officer grade. “It included professors, administrative officers and so on.”
Ideally, he said, the appointments of officers and professors are made by the Public Services Commission while the appointments of the Class 3 workers are made by the Abhinav Sewa Chayan Aayog, a separate selection commission.
However, the minister reportedly bypassed these commissions as well as the governor, who is the chancellor of the university.
On learning about the discrepancies in the appointments, Godiyal said, the governor ordered the Uttarakhand government to probe the matter.
Instead of investigating the matter, the BJP government in the state spoke to the party’s central leadership in New Delhi about the governor’s action, according to Godiyal. Subsequently, he said, Maurya was removed from the post for raising the issue of corruption in Uttarakhand.
Godiyal claimed that it was through the Right to Information Act that an unnamed person had obtained information about this case and then, it appeared in the media. The RTI plea has, however, not been made publicly available.
Following this, he said, the governor directed that a probe be conducted into the matter. “She ordered an investigation as her name was also coming in this since she was the chancellor of the university and people began questioning if she knew of the scam and why she was not taking any action.”
Rs 44 lakh per month paid to appointees
Local media reports claim that the issue of the irregular appointments of 56 people in the Uttarakhand Open University first came to light following an audit of its records. The reports also noted that a sum of Rs 44 lakh per month was being paid to the appointed persons.
Following this, finance secretary Amit Negi had written to the secretary of higher education to take necessary action. The appointments were made without any official orders regarding the vacancies, it has been reported.
After the matter gathered heat, the university’s vice-chancellor Om Prakash Singh Negi stated that the university had outsourced some jobs at its own expense and that the audit had nothing to do with it. He had also denied having received any letter from the administration for carrying out the appointments.
Dhan Singh Rawat, the state’s higher education minister, had tried to downplay the audit report saying that several things come up in these and that he would get the matter examined.
The Wire has written to the principal secretary of the Uttarakhand Department of Higher Education enquiring on the audit and its role in highlighting the anomalies found in the Uttarakhand Open University and about what actions the department has taken in this regard. The email also asks when exactly Baby Rani Maurya ordered this probe, what came out of it and whether any minister figured in the alleged irregular appointments and consequent investigations. This report will be updated if and when the principal secretary responds to the query.