Shocked by reports in Moneylife on the notorious chikki scam, the Public Concern for Governance Trust, headed by retired IPS officer Julio Ribeiro has taken up the issue and shown willingness to even file a PIL, if required
After reading exclusive reports in Moneylife about the Chikki scam, retired IPS officer Julio Ribeiro, who is also a founder-Trustee of Public Concern for Governance Trust (PCGT), has written a letter to Maharashtra Chief Secretary for taking up the investigation into this multi-crore scam on top priority.
Right to Information (RTI) activist Vijay Kumbhar has procured tell-tale documents pertaining to the Rs206 crore ‘Chikki’ scam by Pankaja Munde, the Minister of Women and Child Welfare, in Maharashtra.
Mr Ribeiro, in a letter to SS Kshatriya, Chief Secretary of Maharashtra, said, “…regarding the Chikki Scam, a lot of evidence and documents are now in our possession, as they have been collected by activists for good governance. I am forwarding their findings for your perusal and analysis.”
The former Commissioner of Mumbai, has also requested, “an early decision on this matter, as it is of utmost public significance” in the letter.
Soon after a series of four articles pertaining to the Chikki scam were published in Moneylife (http://www.moneylife.in/article/pankaja-munde-ups-purchase-order-by-three-times-in-six-days/43054.html
), Mr Ribeiro termed the issue as “scandalous”. Then, PCGT wrote to Sucheta Dalal, founder editor Moneylife, stating, “after learning through your Moneylife article on ''Chikki scam'', Mr Julio Ribeiro, ex-CP, Mumbai, DGP-Punjab and Gujarat and presently, Chairman, Public Concern for Governance Trust, Mumbai is interested in taking the matter to its logical conclusion through courts of law, as per his comment below forwarded for your information.”
Mr Ribeiro has also forwarded crucial documents to the Chief Secretary for early perusal of the same.
The documents forwarded by PCGT can nail the evidence of Pankaja Munde’s involvement and pertain to chikki being a major portion of procurement, but it involves malpractices and corruption in Ayurvedic biscuits, handmade paper, steel plates, sprinkles, protein powder, books, growth monitoring machines and plastic mats.
The issues under investigation would be as follows.
• Chikki: The Maharashtra chikki scam was first unearthed in sometime first week of June 2015. Several malpractices came to light in the procurement of chikki, biscuits, steel plates, water filters, plastic mats and so on. Many of the units which were awarded work didn’t exist at all, or were closed. Vaidya Industries was one such unit. After the scam was unearthed, media brought to light the facts that Vaidya industries was actually a fabrication unit, was closed long back and didn’t have the capacity or machinery to manufacture steel plates. Media also published visuals of this unit.
• Ayurvedic Biscuits: Pankaja Munde on 12 February 2015 citing same reasons as in chikki, ordered purchases of Ayurvedic biscuits worth Rs95.51 lakh. But, the very next day, it was increased to Rs5 crore without any changes in number of beneficiaries. When the order was passed, no competitive bids were invited, rate contract with company was not in force (As per GR dated 28 July 2011, rate contract was applicable till 27 July 2014). Neither did the company have its own production unit. The company did not even have Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) license for any of its products
• Water filter cum purifiers: The haste shown by all the concerned offices in procurement of water filter-cum-purifiers raises so many questions. Officers of Women and Child Department and Industries Department went out of the way so that Everest Industries can get the contract. Interestingly, Everest Industries, which has been eligible for supply of water purifiers this year, was made eligible for supply of Plastic mats by the Industries Department. It shows that the contractor is well acquainted with “procedure” of WCD and Industries Department.
• Handmade paper: The Women and Child Development Minister awarded around Rs12.31 crore printing contract to Handmade Paper Institute (HMPI) of Pune without a tender and any competitive bids. Everybody in this deal knew that Hand Made Paper Institute was leased out way back and not entitled for any rate fixation.
• Magic plastic mats: This is another case of a nexus between officials of WCD and contractors. As per media reports, a company to whom this contract was awarded was closed since last many years and was actually in the business of school benches and pipes. Even then, this closed unit participated in the tender process started by Industries Department. Interestingly, this non-existing company was successful in winning the contract for plastic mats.
• Growth monitoring machines: These machines are used to weigh malnourished children. Two contractors, Sai Hi-Tech Products and Nitiraj Engineers, were awarded the contract at a cost of Rs6 crore and Rs18 crore, respectively, flouting all norms and curiously, Nitiraj Engineers had not even applied for clinching the contract.
Last month, while giving Pankaja Munde a clean chit, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced the setting up of the three-member Committee, headed by the present chief secretary to investigate the chikki-scam.
However, it is worth noting that the three-member Committee under the Chief Secretary is yet to be named.
(Vinita Deshmukh and Vijay Kumbhar, both are RTI activists from Pune. Ms Deshmukh is also consulting editor of Moneylife, 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”.