Mumbai/Pune, May 25 (IANS) In a shocker, a man posing as an official of the Chief Minister’s Officer (CMO) has allegedly conned at least two major educational institutions in the name of Chief Minister Eknath Shinde to secure an undisclosed number of admissions, official sources said here.
A complaint to this effect has been lodged by Nitin U. Pansare of the CMO, Mumbai, with the Hinjewadi Police Station, Pune which registered an FIR on the sensational admissions fraud on Tuesday, though no arrest has been made yet.
The lid from the scam blew off when a delegation of Symbiosis International University and another institution called on Shinde at a function in Pune on Sunday.
A member of the delegation informed the officials that following purported ‘requests’ from the CMO, they had given admissions to four students to the prestigious Symbiosis Group institutions – the SIBM Pune, Lavale, Hinjewadi and even at Bengaluru.
To prove the claim, the delegation member showed mobile screenshots of the person claiming to work for the CMO, and “asking for the admissions in the name of the CM”.
The alleged fraudster has been identified as one self-proclaimed social worker, Rrahul Rajendra Palande, 31, a resident of Darshangiri Building in Keshavnagar, Pimpri-Chinchwad (Pune district), who has posted pix with the CM on his social media profile.
Rattled by the revelations, the CMO immediately launched an internal probe which confirmed that no such requests were made from the CM or the CMO or any other officials.
Worse, they also discovered that the mobile numbers from which the admission requests were made did not belong to any CMO officials, nor was Palande in any way connected with the state government or the CMO.
Official sources disclosed that taking the matter extremely seriously, the CM has personally directed that strict action should be taken against the perpetrator of the admissions fraud on priority.
Further details proved that Palande has been masquerading as “an important official of the CMO” before the gullible people and also top officials of various prime institutions in Pune, the ‘academic capital’ of Maharashtra.
He would collect huge sums of money from the victims under the pretext of getting the coveted admissions, mainly through the ‘Management Quotas’ from various educational institutions like Symbiosis Group, and others.
Palande had created a fake profile on various social media networks, including True Caller, a ‘CMO-Government of Maharashtra’ logo on his WhatsApp DP, with an introduction as ‘PRO Office of Eknathbhai Shinde.’
The other gimmicks he resorted to lure and cheat the people included a fake email account email@example.com’ and even a Google location of Mantralaya.
In the complaint, the CMO has categorically declared that the said Palande “is not a government officer or a servant of any kind in any department of the state government”.
It also says that all the tricks on various social media that he has deployed were fake and intended to cheat the masses and pressurise the educational institutions to cough out admissions for which he collected money from the people.
Sources in the Pune academic fraternity told IANS that not only Palande – believed to be a close aide of a Cabinet Minister of the ruling ally Shiv Sena – but there are others virtually prowling like a ‘gang’ in and around campuses in the city.
“They have created a reign of terror among educational institutions, dropping big names of CM or party presidents or ministers or secretaries, demanding admissions for which they take amounts ranging from Rs 800,000 to Rs 25,00,000, depending on the courses, resorting to arm-twisting or threats if refused… The police must stop these nefarious activities firmly,” said a head of an institution, requesting anonymity.
While the CMO has confirmed the developments, despite repeated attempts by IANS, top officials of the Symbiosis Group and the police department remained incommunicado.