Monday, November 5, 2012

Govt ignored mid-day meal missive?

THE TIMES OF INDIA: MUMBAI: Even as investigations into allegations of diversion of rice meant for the mid-day meal scheme for schools in parts of Mumbai and surrounding areas continued on Sunday, the ISKCON Food Relief Foundation (IFRF), the mid-day meal contractor under the scanner, claimed it had repeatedly approached government agencies to stop excessive supply of rice to it.

Following raids by the office of the controller of rationing and director of civil supplies at the Patel Cold Storage warehouse in Turbhe and another unit Ace International in Koparkhairane, the Navi Mumbai police on Saturday registered two cases against the owners of these units and IFRF purchase manager Sunil Kumar Party for illegal hoarding aimed at diversion of rice in the open market.

About 15,267 bags with a total amount of 7,634 quintal rice, worth over Rs 2 crore in open market, were confiscated during the raid. Warehouse officials told the police that they had been holding the stock since June 2012 at the behest of the IFRF. Warehouse records also showed that 15,458 bags were transported at IFRF's behest from Food Corporation of India (FCI) godowns to the warehouse during the period.

Questioning the excessive storage and the difference between the quantity of rice confiscated and transported quantity, rationing officials alleged that rice was being diverted.

HG Radha Krishna Das, program managing director, IFRF, denied the allegations. On February 2, 2010, Das had written to the additional municipal commissioner, eastern suburbs, BMC, informing him that the "quantity of rice received from FCI is more than what was required for preparing the meals". The IFRF had said that to prevent malpractice and waste, it should be permitted to either exchange the extra raw rice for other ingredients like dal, spices and ghee or lift only as much rice as required. Alternatively, the NGO had also sought permission to distribute the balance raw rice to the children at the end of the month. "Our communication yielded no response," Das said.

While rationing officials continue to maintain that after storage at the warehouse, the FCI rice was "polished" at Ace International before being repacked in jute bags and sold, Das maintained that the unit was one of three facilities used by it for "cleaning" of the rice. Das claimed that the rice transported from the godown was not in a ready-to-use condition. Das produced official letters regarding the cleaning facility with various government and semi-government agencies. Even the office of the controller of rationing and director of civil supplies had responded to one such letter in 2010.

Women & child devpt min to meet CM

Women and child development minister Varsha Gaikwad will discuss the controversy over contracts allotted by her department for supply of supplementary nutritious food to children in the six months to three years age group and pregnant and lactating mothers with CM Prithviraj Chavan on Monday. Following an adverse report submitted by commissioners to the SC about the matter on Friday, the department is also seeking legal opinion. Over the last two years, several cases have been filed in this regard.

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