TAMIL NADU

Lakhs swindled: MMC students

Chennai April 9 . Students of the Madras Medical College men's hostel today took to the streets to protest ``high-handedness'' on the part of college officials, whom they accused of shielding some persons who were swindling money, amounting to several lakhs.

The students charged a hostel official with having abetted the siphoning off several lakhs, collected monthly from them. Presenting documents to substantiate their allegations, the students said the auditors had pointed out as early as in June 2000 irregularities in book keeping and indicating that mistakes were being made.

Further, the auditor's report of December 2001 requested the warden to convert to the double entry system of accounting, to detect errors immediately. The report notes that the bankbook and an expenses analysis register were not being maintained. Further, the list of students for whom scholarships and a stipend amount were being remitted was not being recorded. "The ledger clerks have made a fictitious receipt entirely in the individual student register with the clear intention of cheating the hostel management and appropriating the collections," the auditor has said. Yet another report submitted this year indicated that the errors were continuing and that no attempt had been made to set them right.

While the students believed that Rs. 15-20 lakhs has been swindled, they claim that the chief warden himself, in a letter to the dean (March 17, 2003) admitted that an approximate sum of Rs. 3 lakhs had been siphoned off as on December 12, 2001.

Two accounting clerks admitted to the crime and had signed confessions, promising to repay the amount by February 2002. However, no recovery was made to date. On the other hand, the medicos claimed, the chief warden had forced some students to sign letters `forgiving the defaulters'.

"We have been threatened by the chief warden and the vice-principal, who have been targeting individual students and victimising them. They have also questioned our stand on the issue and said they were not duty bound to provide details to us," complained a postgraduate hostel student.

When contacted, government officials said the chief warden and the vice-principal were shifted out of their posts and further action would be taken after the enquiry reports were submitted.