All chikki samples collected and sent for testing in centrally-approved laboratories were found fit for consumption, said women and child development minister Pankaja Munde on Wednesday, giving a clean chit to her department in the alleged Rs206-crore chikki scam. The conclusive report has come from the Referral Food Laboratory of Ghaziabad, considered to be a final word on quality control as per food safety law, 2011.
Congress legislator Amin Patel asked whether Munde’s department had admitted through an affidavit filed in the high court that the chikki submitted to tribal schools in four districts - Ahmednagar, Jalgaon, Amravati and Nandurbar - was not fit for human consumption and what action had been taken by the government against the guilty contractor.
Munde refuted this, saying no such information had been put in the affidavit. “We got only complaint of one of the chikki samples not being edible in Ahmednagar district. The distribution of the chikki was stopped immediately, even before it could be consumed. We also stopped payment to the contractor,” said Munde. The chikkis were among the dry snacks distributed to tribal children from 14 districts.
Munde said while an initial lab report from a state-recognised laboratory in Pune had said the samples were not edible, the distributing agency had sought an appeal and the samples had been sent to the referral laboratory in Ghaziabad. The lab report had said the samples were edible, but two out of the three samples sent had not been labelled and branded properly. The minister also said following the controversy, the department had got 12 lab reports that had given a clean chit to the chikki.
However, the Opposition refused to accept this as a valid answer. The minister also got on the wrong foot by making some remarks against Opposition legislators, which were later expunged from the records.
The Congress has been aggressive on the “chikki scam” and has filed a complaint with the ACB, pointing out Munde’s department handed out contracts worth Rs206 crore for chikkis, water filters, carpets for anganwadis on a single day without awarding tenders.