Citizens' Issues
Why Pankaja Munde cannot get away by saying sorry
While the Supreme Court, in its multiple orders, has stated that private contractors cannot be used for the supply to the Supplementary Nutrition Programme (SNP), the report of the Principal Adviser to its Commissioner is so damning that Munde cannot feign ignorance
 
After initially denying vehemently that she has done no wrong in awarding purchase contracts to the tune of Rs206 crore in a single day, Pankaja Munde, Minister of Women and Child Welfare, Maharashtra, has confessed her mistake for the same, in the Assembly, last week. However, she cannot be given a clean chit on the basis of this verbal admission of having committed a mistake as she cannot be given the benefit of the doubt of her ignorance of the stinging report of the Principal Adviser to the Commission of the Supreme Court which has slammed Maharashtra government for large scale corruption and financial irregularities that has put at stake, the health of infants, children upto six and pregnant and lactating mothers.
 
On 31st October, 2012, Dr N C Saxena, commissioner and Harsh Mander, Special Commissioner of the Supreme Court (who were asked to monitor large scale irregularities of the Supplementary Nutrition Programme scheme in Maharashtra and other states) submitted the report of Biraj Patnaik, Principal Adviser of the Office of the Commissioners of the Supreme Court, requesting the Supreme Court an independent enquiry under Special Investigation Team (SIT) since ``this is a matter that involves the health, and indeed the lives of millions of children in India.’’ Biraj Patnaik’s report stands valid in the Pankaja Munde case, as she awarded contracts to the similar tainted contractors mentioned in this report. Allegedly, it is a case of the proverbial old wine in new bottle, as the same names float in a different garb.
 
Briaj Patnaik, in his report, makes a serious observation that` `My investigations point to a close nexus between politicians, contractors and bureaucrats that has allowed for the active subversion of the letter and spirit of the Supreme Court orders…this would not have been possible without the active complicity at the highest levels of governance in Maharashtra.’’
 
It is important to understand why Pankaja Munde’s scam is heinous and unpardonable. The Principal Adviser to the Supreme Court Commissioner, in its report explains the point: `` It is unconscionable (unacceptable) that a country with one of the highest rates of malnutrition, globally, allows corruption to undermine the ICDS and thereby future of its children. According to National Family Health Survey 3, everyday close to 5000 children die in India due to preventable causes including malnutrition. The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) is the only institutional mechanism of the government to deal with issues of children under the age of six. Government of India/States and UTs spend close to Rs8,000 crore every year on the provision of Supplementary Nutrition.’’
 
In order to make this issue clear to the lay person it needs to be understood that the  Supreme Court has in its multiple orders in the Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) case unambiguously stated that private contractors cannot be used for the supply of Supplementary Nutrition Programme (SNP) under the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS). The following orders were clearly aimed at keeping out private contractors who have a commercial interest in the supply of nutrition of young children but also to encourage local production and distribution through the use of mahila mandals, village societies, panchayats etc. Following are the various Supreme Court orders:
 
7th October 2004: The contractors shall not be used for supply of nutrition in Anganwadis and preferably ICDS funds shall be spent by making use of village communities, self-help groups and Mahila Mandals for buying grains and preparation of meals
 
13th December, 2006: Chief Secretaries of all State Governments/UTs are directed to submit affidavits giving details of the steps that have been taken with regard to the order of 7th October, 2004. Chief Secretaries of all state governments/UTs must indicate a time-frame within which the decentralization of the supply of SNP through local community shall be done
 
22nd April, 2009: It is further stated by the Additional Solicitor General that Supplementary Nutrition Programme (SNP) in the form of Take Home Rations (THR) shall be provided to all children in the age group of 6 months to 3 years, pregnant mothers and lactating mothers…Accordingly, all Union Territories and State Governments are directed to ensure compliance with the stipulations without fail
 
Further, all the states and UTs are directed to provide supplementary nutrition in the form of a morning snack and a hot cooked meal to the children in the age group of 3 to 6 years as per guidelines
 
Following the orders of the Supreme Court, the ICDS is now a universal scheme with an anganwadi centre being present in almost every village across the country. Supplementary nutrition, mostly in the form of Take Home Rations (THR) are provided for children in the age group of 6 months to 3 years, pregnant and lactating mothers and adolescent girls thorough the anganwadi centres
 
The Supreme Court Commissioner’s report observes: ``We have been receiving information from different states over the last few years that this order is being violated. As we have repeatedly pointed out to the state governments/Government of India and the Hon’ble Supreme Court, that even in states where the contract for supply of Supplementary Nutrition Programme (SNP) has been given to public sector undertakings or mahila mandals, these have been further sub-contracted the production to private contractors thereby going against the spirit of the order of the Supreme Court.
 
Supreme Court Commissioner’s observation on Maharashtra scam…
 
``The contracts to supply Take Home Rations (THR) in Maharashtra have been given to three Mahila Mandals namely, Venkateshwara Mahila Audhyogic Utpadan Sahakari Sanstha Ltd, Mahalaxmi Mahila Gruhaudyog and Balvikas Buddheshiya Audhyogic Sahakari Sanstha and Maharashtra Mahila Sahakari Grahaudyog Sanstha Ltd. These mahila mandals in turn, have leased in the facilities for production of THR from private agro companies. My report establishes the de-facto and dejure ownership of the Mahila Mandals and private agro companies are of the same family.
 
Following the Expression of Interest in 2009, the contract for supply of THR in Maharashtra was awarded to three Mahila Sansthas/ Mahila Co-operatives
  1. Venkateshwara Mahila Audhyogik Utpadan Sahakari Sanstha Ltd, Latur
  2. Mahalaxmi Mahila Gruhaudyog & Balvika Buddheshiya Audhyogic Sahakari Sanstha
  3. Maharashtra Mahila Sahakari Gruhaudyog Sanstha Ltd, Dhule
None of the above three Mahila Mandals have their own production units and for the purpose of production of THR, they have leased units belonging to private companies. In almost all of these cases it is seen that the owners of the private companies are family members of the women in the mahila mandal holding the financial and administrative control and responsibility for the same unit
 
The report also observed following irregularities, in contract given to these santhas 
The contracts for supply of THR (Take home ration) under supplementary nutrition project (SNP)  has been given to Mahila Mandals which are further sub-contracting the responsibility of production of THR to private units. This is in violation of the spirit of the Supreme Court order that production and distribution should be decentralized and private contractors kept out
 
The private units that have been leased by the Mahila Mandals for production of THR are owned by family members of the members of the Mahila Mandal who have the controlling authority over all organisational and financial matters in relation to the lease agreement
 
In spite of many complaints regarding the quality of THR, there has not been any serious investigation or suspension of contracts. Lab reports on quality submitted by the Mahila Mandals are suspicious as all three mahila mandals approach the same lab and when the quality is tested in a government lab through picking a random sample,
 
The THR failed to meet the nutritional norms. Further, even an independent checking by investigation bureau of the newspaper, Daily News and Analysis, Mumbai through a private lab showed that the THR being supplied does not meet nutritional norms. 
 
Two of the units (Paras Foods and Indo Allied Protein Foods) that have been leased by the Mahila Mandals for supply of THR are already under scrutiny following an FIR and Chargesheet by the CBI on charges of corruption in supply of food for the Tribal Department
 
Many of the transactions by the Mahila Mandals through the sub-committees have been done without informing and taking consent of the Co-operative Societies Department, as required by law
 
Although the (Expression of interest) EOI was invited for each district separately, the entire responsibility has been given to only three mahila mandals who are producing the THR in a total of less than ten units for the entire State, out of which one unit is based out of the State in Rajasthan
 
Contract awarded to three mahila sansthas were front organisations of private contractors. The report also throws light on names of private contractors. Interestingly, most of these contractors were near and dear ones of Munde family.
 
It seems that this business of siphoning public money was going on in WCD for many years. They wait for money to be allotted under integrated child Development Scheme   (ICDS) and then distribute money amongst themselves. To do that, they broke all procurement rules and guidelines. As all the ministries and senior officials were equally party to it no complaint helped break this racket.
 
The Supreme Court Commissioner’s report also observes: Following the Supreme Court orders of 2004, the Government of Maharashtra attempted a system of decentralised supply through women’s Self Help Groups (SHGs). To ensure that big contractors did not come in, they passed a Government Resolution that no single SHG should supply more than five anganwadis. While this system was beginning to work, the Government of Maharashtra in 2009; once again introduced a new system through which it allowed backdoor entry of big private contractors with only commercial interests. Meanwhile they cleverly used the word ‘Mahila sansthas’/ ‘woman’s institutions ‘in the tender process. Mahila sansthas’/ ‘woman’s institutions’ includes not just SHGs/ Mahila Mandals but any entity that has women in it, irrespective of size and turnover. By including Mahila Sansthas the government of Maharashtra opened the door for private companies and contractors. And that’s how the contract was awarded to three mahila sansthas.
 
Since Pankaja Munde defied the Supreme Court orders and allowed back door entry of private contractors, her saying sorry is as good as a bad joke at the expense of thousands of malnourished women and children in her state, of which she is their Minister. 
 
 

The Expression of Interest of the Government of Maharashtra for supply of SNP states:

  •  
  • • ``Applications are being invited from Mahila Mandal, Woman Institutions, Self-Assistance Saving Group While filing the applications, applications should confirm that they are having experience for the supply of supplementary nutritious food and they are complying with technical eligibility of the applications
  •  
  • • Contractors, Professionals, Middlemen, Distributors, Dealers, Non-Trading Company, agents are not eligible to submit the application
  •  
  • • Following should be clearly mentioned in the application: districts selected by the applicant, unit which will be producing for that district, production capacity of unity, names and detailed information of the responsible person looking after day-to-day business of the unit and detailed information

     

 
 

 

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COMMENTS

Ravindra Joshi

1 year ago

True, saying 'sorry'is not good enough.

If Pankaja Munde erred, being fully aware of the Supreme Court directions, that would amount to flagrant corruption. Legal proceedings should then be instituted against her.

If she erred in ignorance of the Supreme Court directions and the "Mahila Mandals" racket, she would be guilty of criminal negligence. In that case too she should face the law.

The least she can do is to resign. The least the CM can do is to persuade her or force her to resign.

Shirish Sadanand Shanbhag

1 year ago

To comment on Jaideep Shirali's comments, it is a half truth.
Those who framed our constitution has taken sufficient care of all the future impending scandals, and we have to make use of our constitutional provisions to fight against these corrupt politicians.
You can download our constitution from the net or buy its copy from a book stall selling law books.
There are some books on our constitution with the commentary, on how to use articles stated in our constitution.

TIHARwale

1 year ago

Nothing better could have been expected from Pankaja after all she is related to Pramod Mahajan and Nitin does back seat driving

jaideep shirali

1 year ago

NaMo it seems believes in "Beti" (this one) ko bachao. As far as the recipients of this 'nutritious' food are concerned, the slogan is "ho sake to beti ko bachao". The colour of the uniform has changed from white to saffron, but the inner venality and rottenness of the Indian politician remains the same. Those who framed our constitution had too much faith in our netas and babus, both are the worst enemies of the nation.

Shirish Sadanand Shanbhag

1 year ago

This is an eye opening report of Supreme Court, to the Government of Maharashtra.
Let us see how our learned Chief Minister, who himself is a lawyer, how he takes this to his ministry's cases.

Narendra Doshi

1 year ago

Excellent mind blowing research of what has been going on silently, even now, in amcha maharashtra. Do the doers have a conscience to answer themselves? Great pity - state is going backwards since several years instead of a leading progressive past history. Shameful!!

Twitter can predict stock market movements
Twitter is more than just a platform to air your views on various issues and events. It can also give you a fairly good idea of the stock market movements, says a new study.
 
The latest study by the European Central Bank (ECB) endorses previous findings that said as much.
 
The researchers crunched over 3,10,000 tweets between 2010 and 2012 containing the words "bullish" or "bearish" -- as these are generally used in relation to what investors think about future market movements, London-based business paper CityA.M. reported.
 
They said Twitter could be a better predictive tool for stock market movements than search engine Google, as well as some surveys.
 
"Twitter bullishness has a statistically and economically significant predictive value in respect of share prices in the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada," the study said.
 
In other words, what people are saying on Twitter can tell you whether stocks are going up or down that day. The study pointed out though that while Twitter is a pretty good barometer, it only works in the short term.
 
"We further observe that high Twitter bullishness indicates an increase in daily returns on the following day, with there being a return to normal levels within the next two to five days," the researchers said.
 
Also, Twitter's predictive powers become noticeable in "extreme market conditions" such as the global financial crisis which ripped through markets around eight years ago.
 
The ECB admits its a pretty blunt tool to measure such a slippery concept as "investor sentiment" -- the gut feeling people are getting about companies and markets that can move prices. But it turns out that Twitter is a better indicator than flipping a coin.

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After 30 years, power consumption growth slows in China
For the first time in 30 years, energy-hungry China is seeing its slowest growth in power consumption.
 
China Electricity Council released a report, “A Brief on 2015 January-June Electricity Industry”, that showed a slower growth rate of power consumption at 1.3 percent -- the lowest in 30 years, People's Daily reported.
 
Electricity data has long been the barometer of economy. 
 
Experts pointed out that the decreased acceleration rate was an indicator that China has entered a phase of slower economic development, the media report cited China Energy News as saying.
 
The first half of 2015 saw total electricity consumption of 2,662.4 billion kWh all over China. Electricity supply relatively surpassed demand, but investment in electricity construction still increased.
 
There were 19 provinces whose acceleration rates were above the 1.3-percent national average, and there 9 provinces whose acceleration rates were below zero.
 
The data also varied in different industries. 
 
Electricity consumption in secondary industry decreased by 0.5 percent -- the first time in five years. Electricity consumption in light industry increased by 2.1 percent and in heavy industry it decreased by 0.9 percent.

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