NEW DELHI: Law minister Salman Khurshid has released photographs and documents of camps conducted by his trust and presented a key beneficiary to refute allegations of misappropriation of funds meant for welfare of the disabled.
Addressing a press meet in New Delhi on Sunday, Khurshid ruled out any intention of resigning from the Cabinet. He, however, demanded an independent probe that also involved investigation into the role of the private television channel, which made the allegations, similar to the “one conducted in UK on Rupert Murdoch.”
Khurshid presented a beneficiary, Range Mistri, from Farrukhabad. Mistri had told the television channel in an interview that he had not received the hearing aid promised by Khurshid’s NGO. However, at the press conference he did a volte-face: “I had received a hearing aid at a camp two years back. It used to malfunction often. I said I never received one to the TV channel because I thought I would get another one,” Mistri said amid cheers from Khurshid’s supporters.
Khurshid and wife Louise, project director of Dr Zakir Hussain Memorial Trust, came armed with documents and photographs to prove that the camps in question were held in UP, contrary to claims of the television channel. Khurshid opened the press meet with what he termed as ground rules. He refused to be drawn into a battle with Arvind Kejriwal’s India Against Corruption and the five questions he posed earlier in the day. Instead, he took on the media group’s sting operation, which became the basis of Kejriwal’s demand for his resignation. “At the outset, let’s settle some issues. The core issue (allegation) here is that 71 lakh were given to a trust, which I head and project director is Louise, for 17 camps to be held in UP but these were not held and money was diverted.”
Khurshid said the television channel had based its story on the version of former chief development officer JB Singh, who had denied giving any affidavit to the trust and had said that the affidavit furnished was forged. Khurshid released photographs showing Singh’s presence at a camp in Mainpuri. “You will be pleased to see this is the photograph of Mr Singh giving out an instrument in the camp, which he says never took place. This is a photo dated July 17, 2010. This is the first time that the law minister is saying with full authority that these photographs are not morphed.”
Support of Congress was more than evident as Khurshid brought party MP Azharuddin to vouch that his camps for the disabled had been organised. Khurshid read out an exhaustive list of senior Congress functionaries and state unit office-bearers who were present at Etawah, Farukkhabad, Bareilly, Sant Ravidas Nagar and other places in Uttar Pradesh where his trust had conducted the camps.
“Nothing on 71 lakh can be proved… Not a word can be proved. They can scream, scream and scream till they turn blue in their face,” said the law minister at the one-and-a-half hour long press conference where he lost his temper a number of times and once told a journalist to shut up and leave.
Khurshid said he would meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to share his feelings. Lashing out at the media group which conducted the sting operation, he said that his trust had done no wrong. When asked if he was willing to give an affidavit to that effect he said, “Yes I am giving an affidavit. Then you would say you had given an affidavit and some things you provided at the camp were faulty. So I will say that I am saying with reasonable confidence what we have said (the camps) have happened. 2-3 people might have some complaints with what we have supplied but no wrong doing has occurred.”
Khurshid refused to be drawn into allegations of forged affidavits. He said he would wait for an inquiry by the UP government. “Evidence that the affidavit is wrong is not clear… How would Louise know it is forged? We took it at face value… Therefore we have asked the UP government to include this aspect also in the probe,” he said. “UP govt is probing into a mysterious affidavit that is suspected to have carried forged signatures,” he said, adding “Let the UP government establish who signed” it. This comes in the backdrop of allegations that a senior state government official whose signature was carried in the document has denied having signed it, saying he had retired three months prior. Khurshid released documents to show 34 camps were held for the disabled people in 2009 and 2010 and produced people associated with these camps.
He also tried to punch holes in the CAG draft report that no camps were organised. “CAG said that when they visited our Okhla office nobody was available. My old father and my old mother, who are too old to walk, live with us. So obviously they were not there. My three sisters and their families live there. But it is okay if CAG team could not find anyone there. But if you did not, don’t you leave a card or a request letter saying that you came and you would want to get in touch. Okay, it does happen when you go in a hurry. If they were looking for Salman Khurshid or Louise Khurshid, all CAG had to do was look over the wall. CAG lives next door to me,” Khurshid said.
Khurshid said others who figured in the TV programme, which he refused to accept as a sting operation, would also appear before media. Referring to his defamation case he said: “We have gone to court in a civilised manner… Let there be an in-depth inquiry to find who is responsible for what.” Khurshid also threatened to go to court in England. “People who are associated with the trust feel we should take up this issue outside India, like England, where the channel is shown. If people want the matter to be filed in courts in England, I cannot stop them,” he said.
Kejriwal had posed five questions to Khurshid, seeking details on forged affidavits. Kejriwal rejected the photographic evidence and said he would present more evidence on Monday. “JB Singh is saying he didn’t visit the camps in 2009-10. All that Khurshid has managed to show for evidence is one photograph. Khurshid is misleading the country…He has to step down so that this probe becomes legitimate. Why are the PM andSonia Gandhi silent about this issue,” he asked.
Courtesy : http://www.economictimes.com