Nagpur, Dec 6: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) conducted a search at the Wardha office of an educational institute in connection with the multi-crore scholarship scam that rocked Maharashtra a few years ago, sources in the central agency said on Friday.
The search at the Rashtrabhasha Prachar Samiti Gyan Mandal's (RBPSGM) premises in the adjoining Wardha district was conducted on Thursday, they said.
The search was carried out by a team of ED officials after the agency unearthed irregularities by office-bearers of the organization, the sources said.
Incriminating documents, including fake papers related to admission of students, were recovered, they said.
The scam involved some educational institutes siphoning off government funds meant for scholarship fees of disadvantaged students in the name of non-existent pupils enrolled using forged documents.
The Mandal was formed after a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between Umesh Borkhede, a private individual, and the Rashtrabhasha Prachar Samiti, said the sources.
As per the guidelines of the UGC (University Grants Commission) and the MoU, the Mandal had no power to give franchises to any private party. However, office-bearers of the Mandal sanctioned franchises to more than 250 people across the state, they said.
"They were running a distance learning programme which was not approved by the UGC. The franchises showed the full strength of students by submitting forged documents of SC and ST students for which the government provides full grants.
"On the count of students the franchises siphoned off crores of rupees of scholarship fees between 2012 and 2016," the sources claimed.
During the investigation, the ED learned the fraud was committed by office-bearers of the Mandal allegedly in connivance with a few state government officials.
A few months ago, the ED had registered an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act after its preliminary inquiry revealed a lot of irregularities in disbursement of scholarship money.
The scholarship scheme announced in June 2006 was aimed at helping poor students from Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), Vimukta Jatis (Denotified Tribes), Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and Special Backward Classes (SBCs) to pursue their post-matriculation education.
The scheme is jointly sponsored by the state and central governments.
While students from SC, Vimukta Jati, OBC and SBC categories are given funds under the scheme by the social welfare department, the tribal welfare department takes care of STs.
The funds are routed through social justice, tribal welfare, higher and technical education and medical education departments. These four departments then allocate the funds to colleges as per the students' strength in respective courses.