The state government is ready to appoint a high-level committee under the chairmanship of a retired high court judge to look into the allegations of misappropriation of funds meant for tribal welfare, advocate general Darius Khambata informed the Bombay high court (HC) on Thursday.
Khambata was responding to a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Bahiram Motiram and Gulab Pawar from Nashik district, seeking directions to appoint a special investigation team to look into alleged misappropriation of funds.
While hearing the petition on June 13, the court had criticised the state government for ignoring the issue and had said the seriousness of the allegations necessitated a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe.
“In Thane district, [which is] just 100km from Mumbai, the tribal population is living in prehistoric conditions. Hundreds of tribal children are dying in Melghat region [of Amravati district],” the judges had said.
According to the petitioner’s counsel, Rajendra Raghuvanshi, rampant illegalities in purchases for tribal development were brought to the state government’s notice in 2004.
The petition alleges that the department had purchased several items such as gas burners, mattresses, pipes, nutrition supplements for malnourished tribal children at high rates and in many cases, orders for purchases worth several crores had been issued directly from the Mantralaya.
The cattle meant for tribal population were purchased without inviting tenders or competitive bids and the orders were placed with a non-existing society.
The payments were made on the same day on which the orders were placed, Raghuvansh alleged during the last hearing He added that there is no record of who received the cattle on behalf of the department or the list of ultimate beneficiaries.
The division bench of justice VM Kanade and justice KR Shriram posted the hearing after two weeks, when it is likely to decide if the probe should be entrusted to a special investigation team supervised by an officer from the CBI or a committee headed by a retired high court judge.