India

After Chikki, Now a Biscuit Scam!

VINITA DESHMUKH AND VIJAY KUMBHAR

Maharashtra CM Fadnavis announced a three-member committee to investigate the Chikki scam; hope it includes biscuits’ procurements too. RTI activists have made documents of the biscuit scam public even as the CM and CIC are mum on the issue of putting them up in the public domain – mandatory under Section 4 of the RTI Act
Maharashtra Minister of Women and Child Welfare Department, Pankaja Munde who has been in the eye of the storm for the Rs206 crore chikki scam, has been given a clean chit once again by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, in the Assembly on 29 July 2015. The CM also announced the setting up of the three-member committee headed by the present chief secretary to investigate the chikki scam.
While CM Fadnavis confidently mentioned that no rule has been flouted in the case of chikki, it would do well for his government and now the chief secretary to visit the blog –www.vijaykumbhar.blogspot.in where documents that shockingly reveal illegalities and financial misappropriations of this scam have been uploaded.
Nevertheless, Kumbhar is now compelled to send an official complaint to Governor of Maharashtra and request him to order the State Central Information Commission (CIC), which is strangely sitting over his complaint, to put the documents in the public domain, as it concerns the health, safety and lives of children and pregnant and lactating mothers of Maharashtra.
Moneylife’s articles on this issue, Chikki moment: When the SCIC also keeps mum on RTI queries and Why Pankaja Munde cannot get away by saying sorry which went viral is but a tip of the iceberg of the scam.
Munde allocated the order of chikki worth Rs75 crore, to the same contractor that the previous government of Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) did. That too, when the Tribal Commissioner had given an adverse report and the Industries Commissioner had raised an objection on the procurement procedure and remarked that such a purchase on rate fixation was not correct and had advised to adopt tender procedure. Similarly, the order given for biscuits is equally a scandalous story.
As per the documents procured – on 12 February 2015, Munde ordered purchases of Ayurvedic biscuits worth Rs95.51 lakh (Anne 23 enclosed). However, the very next day, that is on 13th February, the order was increased to Rs5 crore without any changes in the number of beneficiaries (Anne 23 A). The order was given indiscriminately to Gowardhan Ayur Pharma Pvt Ltd. In addition, competitive bids were not invited; rate contract with the company was not in force, (As per GR dated 28 July 2011 rate contract was applicable till 27 July 2014 only). (See Anne -22). More seriously, the company does not have its own production unit. Even the company does not possess a license issued by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) for any of its products. The company had applied for the same but the file was closed for lack of some compliance from applicant (Anne 24). The company does not have a production unit for manufacturing of biscuits but illegally uses the license of its ‘milk chilling plant’ for the same.
Considering that the biscuits are given for overcoming malnourishment amongst children between the age group of 3 and 6 years and lactating mothers, it is not clear why there is no transparency about the name of the medical expert or experts committee, who has recommended these biscuits as good for nutrition. Since these biscuits have been supplied to the state government for several years, it is a mystery that no third party health impact study has been conducted. More shockingly, these biscuits are not sold in the open market but are solely supplied as supplementary nutrition for this contract. So, one wonders whether children are being used as guinea pigs for an unknown product.
The company has mentioned three manufacturing units on their packets, when as per rules there can be only one license per product. Here, not only does the company, Govardhan Ayur Pharma not have a license, but it seems to have borrowed licenses from other companies which have them for their own products –
1) Gowardhan Ayur Farma Pvt Ltd, Gat No 432 A, property no 1304, Induri, Tal – Maval, dist – Pune, but no such factory exists. The land is vacant.
2) Srujan Foods Pvt Ltd, Plot No D 8, Chincholi, Solapur, but this company belongs to some other persons
3) Uttara Foods and Feed Pvt Ltd, Ranjangaon, Tal: Shirur Dist: Pune but this company belongs to Venky’s.
When Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members created a hue and cry over the chikki scam, when this party was in the opposition, a one man committee under PS Meena was appointed. But he did not submit any report at all. The government changed and BJP too has gone along with the tarnished contractors. Let’s see what this three member committee headed by Chief Secretary, does.
Annexure 22
Annexure 23
Annexure 23A
Annexure 24
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet – The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart – Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.) (Courtesy: http://www.moneylife.in/)
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