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Thursday, February 9, 2012

CB finds Minister, BOSE officials involved in Examgate

Peerzada’s son migrated to Humhama school; Budgam office bypassed in appointment of exam staff; SP School’s math expert filled up answers; Lady academic officer absconding in Delhi; Minister’s exit being discussed with AICC

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Feb 8: Senior Congress leader and Minister of Education, Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed, and Chairman of Jammu & Kashmir State Board of School Education (BOSE), Dr Bashir Ahmad Sheikh, are among nearly half-a-dozen government functionaries who have been found by Crime Branch involved in the unfair means scandal involving the Cabinet Minister’s foster son, Imam Souban Bhat, in the year 2009. Under pressure from different quarters, including public outcry over the academic scam, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is understood to be taking up the matter of action against the Minister with the Congress high command in New Delhi.

Highly placed authoritative sources told Early Times that Crime Branch (CB) has finally completed and handed over to Chief Minister findings of its “preliminary inquiry” into media reports which alleged that Minister incharge Education Peerzada Sayeed, then Secretary and now Chairman of BOSE, Dr Bashir Sheikh, and other officials had facilitated and later covered up use of unfair means by Imam Souban in the Matriculation examination of November 2009. Even as nobody in CB responded to phone calls from media, sources maintained that involvement of a Minister and senior BOSE officials had been established.

According to these sources, CB’s sleuths seized records and interrogated over a dozen officials of BOSE and Department of School Education, trying to explore how the high-profile candidate had enjoyed the illegal facilitation and how the BOSE officials, as well as bureaucrats from CM’s Secretariat to General Administration and School Education departments, had brushed the whole academic scandal under the carpet.

Investigators inter alia noticed that officials in GAD and School Education had conveniently ignored instructions from both Raj Bhawan as well as CM’s Secretariat and facilitated declaration of the candidate’s result--- even after an in-house BOSE inquiry--- in violation of all rules and norms. Nevertheless, sources said, no specific action has been recommended by CB against the delinquent officials and bureaucrats in two particular departments at Civil Secretariat.

These sources insisted that not more than six people, including Peerzada, Dr Bashir Sheikh, then Deputy Director of Academics Merajuddin Zargar (who is working as Principal of Iqbal Memorial School after his retirement), Academic Officer Ms Aaliya (who is reportedly absconding in New Delhi since the day Examgate was exposed by media), SP Higher Secondary School’s teacher and expert of mathematics Mr Imtiyaz (who was allegedly used to write answers) besides a teacher Tariq Gilani (who was posted as Superintendent of the centre in question), were under the cloud.

Track of the academic scandal has been mapped right from Imam Souban’s unjustified migration from prestigious Tyndale Biscoe School to the newly established Vision Public School at Humhama Crossing, almost at the border of Srinagar Municipality. It has become clear during the course of investigation that a scheme of providing illegal support to the candidate in his Matriculation examination was in place between the Minister, his family and officials of BOSE. One of the well placed sources, quoting CB officials, said that Imam Souban’s “enrolment” in the lousy Government Higher Secondary School Jawahar Nagar for appearing in Class 12th examination (in which he secured distinction with 77.4% marks last week) was also part of a plan between the BOSE officials and the Minister’s family.

It was not clear whether it has been recorded in the report or not but the CB sleuths, according to these sources, learned during the course of investigation that BOSE’s Budgam Sub Office had been intriguingly bypassed in appointment of staff at Al-Ameen Chinar Valley Secondary School where Imam Souban appeared in Matriculation examination in November 2009.

According to sources, Tariq Gilani, who was posted as Superintendent, engaged SP Higher Secondary School’s mathematics expert, Mr Imtiyaz, as Deputy Superintendent without competence and knowledge of BOSE’s Sub Office Budgam, only to provide illegal favour to the Minister’s ward. Instead of Budgam, a suo moto confirmation of Gilani’s action came from then joint secretary Merajuddin Zargar from the BOSE headquarters at Bemina. Interestingly, nobody questioned Gilani how he had engaged the Deputy Superintendent of his own and that too from a different district i.e. Srinagar instead of the list of staff provided by Chief Education Officer of Budgam.

Sources said that then Section Officer and now Assistant Secretary at BOSE’s Sub Office Budgam, Mushtaq Ahmad Rishi, confronted Mr Zargar in front of CB team and reminded him that Budgam Sub Office had been completely bypassed in appointment of the Deputy Superintendent.

Significantly again, CB sleuths did not interrogate officials of BOSE’s Strong Room and Secrecy Section (custodians of the answer sheets and other records) to learn how photocopy of answer scripts of the candidate had reached newspaper offices in Srinagar after over two years. Two officials, identified as Mr Jalu and Assistant Secretary Secrecy, Nazir Ahmad Siraj, have surfaced as major witnesses, though, of late, they have become known for their clash with the Chairman.

Meanwhile, top ranking political sources disclosed to Early Times that Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and others in CM’s Secretariat were deeply studying the CB report. Amid rumours of Peerzada’s resignation, coupled by a Cabinet Minister on some different agenda, Chief Minister was said to be under tremendous pressure from different quarters in taking action against the Minister. However, under tenets of so-called coalition dharma, Mr Abdullah has got to discuss this matter with the coalition partner, Congress.

Sources said that after a possible conversation with J&K Pradesh Congress Committee chief, Prof Saifuddin Soz and union Ministers, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Dr Farooq Abdullah, CM was likely to discuss action against Peerzada with AICC General Secretary incharge J&K, Mohan Prakash, and even the AICC and UPA supreme, Sonia Gandhi.

Even after the CB report, Peerzada has been pleading innocent and dismissing the Examgate as nothing but a conspiracy of his exit from the Cabinet. Without making any specific clarification, he has been asking how the BOSE officials have preserved answer books beyond the mandatory period of six months after declaration of results.

Significantly, Peerzada seems to have been isolated by almost all of his colleagues in the party, including Soz and Azad. The only voices in his support, however feeble, came from some Ministers and MLAs/ MLCs of National Conference who have been the known beneficiaries of the Education Minister’s largesse in sanction and upgradation of schools in their responsive constituencies. Through backdoor of the much infamous Sarva Shiksha Abhyan, RMSA and other centrally sponsored flagship schemes of the UPA Government, a number of J&K’s Ministers and legislators have arranged absorption of their relatives and supporters in government service.


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