Every year the state social justice department is entrusted with disbursement of nearly Rs 2,800 crore as scholarships.
Funds to the tune of Rs 1,800 crore meant for scholarships for SC, ST and OBC students were misappropriated between 2008-09 and 2013-14, says the final report of a special investigation team.
The SIT, set up in early 2016, has recommended the toughest action against 68 institutes. It has asked the social justice department to lodge FIRs against them and recover the defrauded funds from them. Of these, 25 are from five districts: Chandrapur, Beed, Osmanabad, Pune and Solapur.
Based on the SIT's interim reports, FIRs against 22 institutes have been filed and about Rs 64 crore recovered.
"SIT has submitted the report to the state home department. I will consult chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and will decide on further course of action in the next 15 days," Rajkumar Badole, minister for social justice.
The state had formed the 3-member SIT after BJP MLA Atul Bhatkhalkar alleged during the assembly session in December 2015 that an aided ashram school in Jalgaon has shown record 8,000 fake students to misappropriate funds.
Every year the state social justice department is entrusted with disbursement of nearly Rs 2,800 crore as scholarships and fees to over 17 lakh post-matric students in thousands of institutions across the state. The SIT report found out that many institutes show bogus students to claim funds. It also recommended stern action against officials who sanctioned scholarships without following norms, like awarding OBC students for courses meant only for SC students.
But not everyone agrees with the report. A senior official from the social justice department said: "We have done a preliminary analysis. It has been observed that most of the cases need to be reconsidered and seen as 'administrative lapse' instead of corruption. In many cases, the institutions have not spent the amount they received from the government, while some have not been able to show their records and that was considered by the SIT as misappropriation."
But the department will file FIRs against institutions where "ghost" students were enrolled on their records with the intention of misappropriation of funds. "The department may go for an internal inquiry again to study each and every case relating to misappropriation of funds," added the official.