Rs25cr scam probe pending, yet director promoted tainted Morris college professor

Nagpur: Director of Higher Education Dhanraj Mane, who had ordered an inquiry against professor Pramod Lakhe over alleged misappropriation of funds worth Rs25crore among other complaints, cleared the tainted teacher’s promotion even before he was given a clean chit in the cases.
Surprisingly, director Mane and other higher officials have adopted a stoic silence in the case. Till late on Saturday evening, Mane didn’t answer to TOI query regarding Lakhe’s placement (as career promotion is called in academic circles) as associate professor without waiting for the panel to complete its task. Mane also didn’t answer why Lakhe has been given additional charge of state government’s premier Pre-IAS Coaching Centre at Zero Mile. Joint director Archana Nerker too didn’t reply to TOI queries.

This is not the first time Mane has ignored crucial questions posed to him regarding Lakhe. On September 9, TOI had asked him same question about the Pre-IAS Coaching Centre charge then but the director had failed to respond.

On Dec 7, TOI had reported about the alleged Rs25crore scam which came to fore in an RTI query. The inquiry panel was set up in 2017 but has never met as members or chairpersons kept pulling out soon after being named. Lone member and Institute of Science director RG Atram is waiting for the higher education department to name a new member to begin the probe. The panel would also probe about Rs59.14lakh belonging to Nagpur University that Lakhe had retained.

Senior professors from Vasantrao Naik Institute of Arts and Social Sciences (erstwhile Morris College), where Lakhe works as associate professor, said he was promoted (placed in AGP-9000) though there were two other qualified candidates who were ignored by the director. “The director is not serious about the allegations of misappropriation of funds. Two years have lapsed but there is no progress in the case,” they said.

They added that the department had been ‘generous’ when it comes to Lakhe. “In 2016, he was given the charge of the coaching centre. That time he was just assistant professor. It was clear case of bypassing norms,” they said.

On September 10, TOI had highlighted the department’s shocking decision of handing over the charge to Lakhe in violation of it’s a GR. The state general administration department had issued a GR stating that officials facing inquiry couldn’t be given any additional charge.

Lakhe took over the centre’s charge sometime in June 2016 after the unceremonious departure of associate professor Anupama Deshraj.

Deshraj was from MPSC cadre and an associate professor while Lakhe’s was assistant professor. His appointment as assistant professor too is under scanner and mired in controversy as he never appeared for MPSC or other qualifying exams.

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