Private contractors in Maharashtra, who dominate the supply of rations in the Centre’s ambitious Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) and have their fingers in a Rs 1,000-crore pie, seem to be a politically influential set.
A report filed by the office of the commissioners to the Supreme Court on Friday pointed to six firms that have benefited under this scheme by floating front organisations controlled by their family members. This was done to get around an apex court order that stipulates that only self-help groups, mahila mandals (women’s committees) and village communities can be awarded contracts. (A copy of the report is with HT).
HT found that at least two of these firms are owned by persons well known in state political circles. For instance, Swapnil Agro is owned by Satish Munde, who is known to be close to senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde. Swapnil Agro was contracted by the subcommittee of the Venkateshwara Mahila Audhyogic Sahakari Sanstha; Satish’s wife Vanmala Munde and daughter Swati Munde were on that committee.
Another firm, Indo-Allied Protein Foods, is owned by Rajan Shankar Jadhav and Vivek Shankar Jadhav. The report says that Rajan’s relatives, including wife Anjali and sisters-in-law Rashmi and Vidya, are members of the subcommittee of the Mahalaxmi Mahila Sanstha that handed over the contract to Indo-Allied.
“Firstly, I know Satish Munde but am not related to him in any way. I have no business interests with him and have never favoured him,” BJP leader Gopinath Munde told HT. “I looked at the report; Satish only holds 10% of the contracts. But if he is found guilty, he should be punished.”
When contacted, Satish said that he was not related to Munde in any way and that he only shares a birthplace with him. Regarding the SC report, he said the issue was sub-judice and he would comment after judgement was pronounced.
Sources said Satish is a highly influential person in Nagpur political circles, and BJP leader Gopinath Munde often visits his residence when in that city. His 25th anniversary in May 2010 was attended by the who’s who of Nagpur’s political circles, including AICC general secretary Vilas Muttemwar, BJP legislator from Kamptee Chandrashekhar Bawankule, then district collector Pravin Darade and additional income-tax commissioner Pallavi Darade.
Vivek Shankar Jadhav, the other director of Indo-Allied is well known in the state’s corridors of power, across political parties, and is also a director in a well-known construction firm in Mumbai.
Despite repeated phone calls and SMSes sent by HT, Vivek Jadhav did not respond.
The other private companies mentioned in the report as beneficiaries include Paras Agro Private Limited, Sai Foods and Sai Food Products, Kota Dal Mill and Sagar Foods.
Ujwal Uke, principal secretary of the woman and child development department, said the government has not received the report yet. “After we get it, we will incorporate any positive suggestions that are given to improve the ICDS scheme in the state,” he said.