Rashid Paul

HC seeks info from Union W&CD ministry

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Provision of funds to Anganwadi

Petition alleges that alteration of established procedures to accommodate favorites by ICDS officials

Srinagar October 10: The Jammu and Kashmir High Court today sought information from the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development about the overall provision of funds to Anganwadi centers in the state.

On a petition about the alleged application of fraudulent methodology in the procurement and supply of substandard nutritional items worth rupees 30 crores for Anganwari Centers, a division bench directed the Union Ministry about the provision of funds for Anganwari Centers in the State.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Alok Aradhe in a significant direction to Secretary Union Ministry of Women and Child Development, New Delhi asked him to give details about the funds provided to 30, 000 Anganwari Centers spread across the state.

The direction came after a petition filed by J&K Peoples Forum through M. M. Shuja alleged that established procedures were altered to accommodate some favorites by the state officials for the purchase and supply of substandard nutritional items for Anganwari Centers in the State.

The food under the Integrated Child Development scheme (ICDS) had to be supplied / procured through  Mahila Mandals, self help groups (SSGs) just to eliminate the  contractor system to overcome the menace of malpractice and corruption.

However keeping in view the precarious situation in Jammu & Kashmir the contractor system continues to be in operation.

The Mission Director J&K ICDS Srinagar invited tenders for procurement of various nutritional items for supplying them to the Anagnawadi centers of state 2018-19.

However the officer issued a corrigendum to NIT Dated 09.04.2018, relaxing conditions in terms of which the condition of deposit of 30 % of the annual turnover of cost of the bidding items was restricted to food items only so as to enable the blue eyed persons/ companies to participate in the bidding process, said the petition.

The conditions prescribed in the tender documents have not been prescribed as per the guidelines of Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) for purchase and procurement of necessary items, it added.

The CVC in past had also noticed various irregularities and malpractices in the system of procurement adopted by various agencies and it was just to overcome such irregularities that CVC in its wisdom prescribed guidelines, claimed the petitioner.

He said the Department of Social Welfare vide an order No : 342 SW of 2017 Dated : 27.10.2017 constituted a state level Purchase Committee for procurement of items under ICDS scheme and the committee was directed to operate for a period of 6 months or till Village Level Councils (VLCs) become operational or whichever is  earlier.

The VLCs are still non entities having never been constituted for the purpose, he said, adding the order reconstituting the State Level Purchase Committee was to remain in force from 27.10.2017 till 26.04.2018.

By virtue of the said Government order among others, the representatives from Sales Tax Department and Food Safety Department were also made the members of the purchase committee, says the petition.

It said that it is most surprising and ironical that the respondent the Chief Secretary of J&K modified the aforesaid order vide yet another Government order No : 133 SW of 2018 Dated : 07.04.2018 by virtue of which it was directed that the representatives of Food Safety and Sales Tax Departments shall cease to be the members of the purchase committee.

It further said that with a view to initiate the process of procurement of nutritional items, tenders were floated on 9.04.2018 i.e. after two days from the date of deletion of Food Safety and Sales Tax department representatives from the purchase committee in order to pave way for procurement of substandard items from selected few for extraneous considerations.

It claimed that that as the e-tenders were floated on 9.04.2018 and the State Level Purchase Committee, as per Government order supra was to expire on 26th April 2018.

The life of the State Level Purchase committee was neither extended nor any fresh purchase committee was constituted or any Village Level Council was put in place. Therefore, any process of procurement undertaken by the officials is invalid, said the petition.

The actions and interventions of the Mission Director ICDS as well as Chief Secretary are illegal and any procurement made under the said NITs is bad in law and visited by evil consequences, said the petitioner.

The Mission Director ICDS in colorable exercise of power and without obtaining any administrative approval, exceeded jurisdiction and conducted the process of procurement in an illegal manner just to confer illegal benefits upon some blue-eyed persons who appear to be in league with the procurement agency.

As a consequence of this illegal process of tendering, scrutiny and consequential acceptance of rates, the whole process is sham and void ab inito, said the petition.

That apart from the fact that the whole process of procurement and approval of rate contracts is patently void and illegal, the respondents 2 to 4 in connivance with each other have approved the supply of all  substandard,  spurious, misbranded nutritional items at the cost of health and nourishment of thousands of young blooming buds, the petitioner informed the court.

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