New Delhi: Law Minister Salman Khurshid has said he will not resign over allegations that his NGO embezzled funds granted by the Central government meant to help differently-abled people. He said he will brief the Prime Minister on the controversy that centres on whether his NGO used the money it was given to buy and distribute equipment like crutches and hearing aids in Uttar Pradesh.
Activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal who has devoted the last few days to campaigning for Mr Khurshid’s dismissal offered what he described as more proof against the minister today. At a sit-in protest in Delhi, he produced a list of bogus beneficiaries – “most people on Khurshid’s list did not receive equipment,” he said, wearing his trademark topi or cap inscribed with “Main aam aadmi hoon (I am the common man).” He cited media reports that said a dead man was on the NGO’s list of people it had helped.
Mr Kejriwal also said that an inquiry against Mr Khurshid, initiated by the UP government, cannot be impartial. He said that Mulayam Singh Yadav, whose son Akhilesh is the chief minister of UP, is being investigated for corruption. Mr Kejriwal alleged that Mr Yadav and the Congress could trade favours.
Last week, Hindi TV channel Aaj Tak broadcast a sting stating that the money, meant to buy equipment for special-needs residents in Uttar Pradesh, was released to the NGO on the basis of forged documents. The signatures of UP government officials were allegedly forged on documents that testified that camps were held in different parts of UP to distribute equipment like hearing aid, crutches and mechanized tricycles for the differently-abled.
At a press conference yesterday where he often lost his temper at reporters from Aaj Tak, the minister waved photos that showed him inaugurating some of these camps. Mr Kejriwal says the photos do not clear Mr Khurshid because they are taken after the period under scrutiny. Mr Kejriwal has been citing the TV expose to demand that Mr Khurshid be removed for misusing Rs. 71 lakh given by the Centre to his NGO for 2009-10. Mr Kejriwal, who formed his own political party earlier this month, was arrested last week when leading a group of demonstrators including some special-needs protestors, towards the Prime Minister’s house.
Mr Khurshid said he “will not oblige them (activists like Mr Kejriwal) by quitting. His wife, Louise, who runs the NGO, said, “People are doing politics on the shoulders of the disabled.”
In September, Louise Khurshid asked the UP government to investigate allegations that forged signatures had been used on documents about her NGO submitted by state officials to the Centre. The inquiry is being handled, at chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s request, by the Economic Offences Wing. Subrat Tripathi, who heads that agency, told NDTV that the inquiry is an at advanced stage thanks to four teams that are conducting the probe” There is no political pressure. Salman and Louise Khurshid will be questioned, if considered necessary,” he said.
The Khurshids point out that it was Louise who asked the chief minister for this investigation. However, Mr Kejriwal counters that her request was made after reports began surfacing that a TV channel was working on a sting to highlight the alleged financial malpractices in the NGO managed by her.