Reported by Santosh Jagdev
Bhubaneswar, May 4:
The Odisha Soochana Adhikar Abhiyan (OSAA) on Sunday demanded a high-level probe into the the controversial manner in which a premier and Centrally funded institute, the State Institute of Educational Technology (SIET) was closed down by the state government last year and the re-opening of the Institute at the earliest.
Talking to the media here, OSAA convener Pradip Pradhan said based on the replies to several RTI queries filed with the state government, SIET and the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD), Government of India, it can be safely said that the institute meant to provide education to school students through attractive audio-visual programmes was a victim of a conspiracy by vested interests in the state bureaucracy.
Pradhan also said the AG audit of SIET for the year 2012-13 has shown clearly that the funds were spent in a non-transparent manner and rules pertaining to appointment of full time director for the institute were flouted
He said through an RTI query they found out that the the so-called Government of India (GoI) letter (number- 5029/ENCL) to Odisha School and Mass Education Department intimating that the SIET has been closed down and asking it to handover the equipment to CIET officials is false and misleading.
The response by the MHRD to an RTI query has revealed that so far no letter has been written to the SIET Odisha for cessation of Central assistance. It stated that under the [email protected] School scheme, funds on project mode are released to SIETs across the country including SIET Odisha.
“It is clear that the decision for the ‘closure’ of the SIET Odisha was not taken by the MHRD,” Pradhan said.
The Odisha SIET is one of the six institutes in the country which are fully funded by the GoI.
” The decision of state government to close down the institute citing several grounds like refusal of Central Government to give funds and non-cooperation of employees is false and imaginary,” Pradhan alleged.
The OSAA has demanded to know from the state government the details of the expenditure to the tune of Rs 44 crore that was sanctioned under [email protected] School scheme between 2011 and 2013.
Pradhan said , a total of Rs 52 crore – including the aforesaid amount of Rs 44 crore- allotted towards the SIET by the MHRD for 2011-12 and 2012-13 was handed over to a state-run NGO called the Rajya Madhayamik Sikshya Mission of which the chief secretary is the chairman. The Mission could not make use of the fund an in turn passed the amount to another government-run institution called the Odisha Knowledge Corporation Ltd (OKCL) for the implementation of the ICT @School scheme.
He also alleged that the state government is planning to sell the four-acre campus of the SIET to a private company.
“We cannot be mute spectators when a premier institution is closed down in such a conspiratorial manner by the state bureaucracy. We also can not gloss over massive irregularities by the State in spending the Central funds allocated to run the SIET under the [email protected] scheme. We demand a high-level impartial probe to reveal the truth leading to the restoration of SIET Odisha and punishment to the persons responsible for the closure of the Institute,” the OSAA convenor said.
The OSAA has also moved the High Court seeking its intervention in the matter, Pradhan said.
RTI activists Ashok Das, Alok Jena and Jayant Das were also present in the OSAA press meet today.