The Maharashtra food and drug administration (FDA) caused the government a loss of more than Rs32 lakh by not using a plot that the state is paying for, revealed an internal report. Top FDA officials said that after the report was filed, they found that the plot was being used as a godown to store tobacco and other contraband items.
Top FDA officials said the department is struggling to complete testing food samples and needs a laboratory urgently. Despite this, the Pune plot that the organisation was given 22 months ago remains unused owing to the FDA’s carelessness.
“The state government has been paying rent for the plot since December 1, 2014. The plot was slated to be converted into a food-testing laboratory. However, the laboratory has not been constructed and no workers have been recruited yet. The issue has been pending for discussion since February 16, 2016,” said Harish Baijal, IPS officer and joint commissioner, vigilance.
The issue is a part of a September 2016 report, which contains details of 36 matters that are yet to be resolved by top FDA officials. HT has a copy of this report. Currently, the state has two food-testing laboratories in Mumbai and Nagpur and is looking to set up one more at Pune to reduce its workload.
The report states that the plot, situated on the ground floor of Canteen Building, is owned by Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Ltd, which provides public transport to Pune and the Pune Metropolitan Region.
RPY Rao, from society for civil rights awareness obtained the documents in response to a right to information (RTI) query. He said the FDA’s lackadaisical approach has cost the government a lot of money and has endangered people’s lives. “Until we have more laboratories, we won’t be able to test food samples on time. This will lead to a delay in adulterated food being pulled off the shelves,” said Rao. He has demanded a state-level inquiry into the issue.
“We plan to set up the lab at another location. We have invested into the plot and construction is ongoing,” said an official.
“Though the issue is so grave, the department is wasting time and money by investing in a second plot,” said Rao.
A notification released on June 29, 2015, states that Rs32 crore was allotted to build new food-testing laboratories in the state. Of this amount, Rs8 crore has been spent, said officials from the state’s food and civil supply department. “Of the remaining funds, Rs2.16 crore has been allotted to procure equipment and Rs 9.88 crore has been allotted to buy furniture,” said an official.