A spate of complaints from local bodies over contaminated food items and substandard materials exposed what is being termed the first scam of the Devendra Fadnavis government.
Women and child welfare minister Pankaja Munde, who also holds the rural development portfolio, allegedly flouted rules and favoured certain companies when awarding a host of contracts, worth Rs. 206 crore, through 24 government resolutions (GR) on a single day in February.
Since the contracts were awarded, Munde’s women and child welfare department has received numerous complaints from local bodies in rural areas. In a letter to the minister, local corporators and council presidents had asked that the government withdraw stocks of chikki (a snack) contaminated with clay and sand.
Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant, who submitted a stack of documents to the Anti-Corruption Bureau and lodged a complaint against Munde on Wednesday, has demanded thorough inquiry into the alleged scam.
“A contract for printing booklets was given to Navi Mumbai-based Jagatguru Printing Private Limited, which does not even have copyright on the content. In another contract, to print workbooks, the rate used was meant for another department, which later raised objections,” said Sawant.
Sawant claimed that the way the contracts were allotted violated not just the government’s own rules related to tendering, but also a high court order. He alleged that the rules were flouted on Munde’s orders.
Sawant also alleged that Munde’s department cost the state lakhs by reducing the discount on printed materials for children in Anganwadis. The books, he claims, were bought at a 20% discount from printing firms, instead of the usual 25%.
In another case, Prist Pharmaceuticals in Amravati was awarded a contract to supply medical kits for Rs 720 each, well in excess of the Rs-500 limit set by the government. To facilitate the awarding of the contract to Prist, Munde allegedly reduced the number of tablets in each kit.
The BJP has stood by Munde, claiming there were no irregularities in the allotment of the contracts. “None of the BJP-led governments are involved in any financial irregularities. We were elected for clean governance. Time will show that there were no violations in the awarding of contracts by Munde’s department,” said finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar.