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Speaker’s decision puts minister Agarwal in tight spot

Saturday, 24 September 2022 | PNS | DEHRADUN

Minister was consistently defending his decision on appointments now cancelled by Khanduri 

The findings of the expert committee set up by the Assembly speaker Ritu Khanduri on the controversial backdoor appointments in the Uttarakhand Vidhan Sabha have put the role of former speakers of the Vidhan Sabha under a cloud. On the recommendation of the committee, the speaker Ritu Khanduri has cancelled the ad hoc appointments made during the tenure of her predecessors Prem Chand Agarwal and Govind Singh Kunjwal. Interestingly both Agarwal and Kunjwal were consistently claiming that the appointments made by them in Vidhan Sabha were as per the rules which the expert committee has rejected after conducting an investigation. Out of the two, Agarwal and Kunjwal, the former is now the cabinet minister holding Finance, Parliamentary Affairs and Urban Development portfolios in Pushkar Singh Dhami cabinet. Pressure is now mounting from all quarters on Agarwal to leave the cabinet position on moral grounds. The minister is currently on a study tour of Germany with a team of officers of Housing and Urban Development department. 

Sources state that CM Dhami, who has maintained a stand of zero tolerance for corruption and has ordered STF probe into the Uttarakhand Subordinate Services Selection Commission (UKSSSC) paper leak case which is successfully unearthing the case, is also under pressure to act against Agarwal. 

As per the findings of the committee 78 appointments were made by Agarwal during his tenure. Out of them 72 appointments were made in December last year just ahead of the imposition of Model Code of Conduct (MCC) due to Assembly elections.  Citing the GO of department of Personnel on ban on ad hoc appointments, the then Finance secretary Amit Singh Negi had refused to release the budget for the new appointments in Vidhan Sabha. Interestingly the salaries of these employees were released on March 30 this year, a day after Prem Chand Agarwal took charge of the finance portfolio.

Both Agarwal and Kunjwal had claimed that the Uttarakhand High Court (HC) had approved these appointments. The fact however is that the HC had issued a stay on regularisation of the employees appointment on an ad hoc basis in Vidhan Sabha. The Pioneer in its edition of September 4 had carried a report- ‘Former Speakers claim on clean chit by High Court on VS appointments false?’- on this claim of the former speakers and had mentioned that the HC had not approved the appointments in Vidhan Sabha. 

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