The opposition parties in Maharashtra may be heckling the BJP-led government about the chikki procurement controversy, but at least five zilla parishads led by the Congress and NCP have in the past two years independently purchased chikki from the same organisation, through the same procurement method- via rate contracts.
According to information from the state’s Women and Child Development Department, the zilla parishads of Kolhapur and Nandurbar, headed by Congress leaders, and the zilla parishads of Pune, Ahmednagar, and Raigad led by NCP leaders procured chikki in 2014 and 2015.
These ZPs made these purchases based on the same rate contract that is currently under the scanner. The ZPs also purchased the chikki from Suryakanta Mahila Audyogik Sahakari Sanstha, a non-government organisation based in coastal Vengurla in Sindhudurg district, headed by the Congress’s district chief of the women’s cell.
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Sanjay Kumar, Principal Secretary of the Women and Child Development Department confirmed, “The procurements of zilla parishads from their budgets don’t concern us, but they have to follow the same rate contract that we have followed in our purchases and order from the same organisation.”
BJP Minister Pankaja Munde is currently facing allegations of irregularities in the purchase of several items worth Rs 206 crore, including Rs 80 crore worth of chikki, based on existing rate contracts of the state and Union governments. Under Munde, the department purchased peanut, rajgira and micronutrient chikki from Suryakanta, based on a rate contract drawn by the state government in 2012-13.
There have also been complaints about the quality of the chikki being poor, though Munde rubbished these last week with laboratory test reports for the allegedly contaminated batches.
The Pune zilla parishad placed orders with Suryakanta for chikki worth Rs 1 crore in 2014-15. The zilla parishad’s women and child development committee is headed by the NCP’s Vandana Dhumal.
Dhumal said, “We get supply from the state government under the Integrated Child Development Scheme and we also make some procurements. They are all done as per rules laid down by the state government with the consent of the zilla parishad head.”
The zilla parishads of Kolhapur, Ahmednagar and Nandurbar have spent Rs 28 lakh, Rs 20 lakh and Rs 7.5 lakh, respectively in buying chikki from Suryakanta in 2014 and 2015. The women and child development committees for the Kolhapur and Nandurbar zilla parishads are chaired by Congress politicians, while the one in Ahmednagar is led by an NCP person.
Incidentally, it was the Ahmednagar zilla parishad that had raised a red flag over the quality of rajgira chikki from Suryakanta in the batch of supplies ordered as part of the state’s Rs 80-crore contract.
An official with the Ahmednagar zilla parishad said, “We had ordered peanut chikki from the organisation in 2014. At that time we didn’t have complaints about the quality, but we found the recent batch of rajgira chikki to be of inferior quality.”
Similarly, the Raigad zilla parishad, headed by an NCP president, has spent Rs 50 lakh in procuring chikki from Suryakanta in 2014-15. The chairman of the women and child development committee is from the Peasants and Workers Party.
NCP’s Dhananjay Munde, Leader of Opposition in the Upper House and who had first written to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in May asking for an inquiry into the alleged irregularities, declined to comment.
NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said, “Even if zilla parishads have purchased on the basis of the same rate contract, ultimately the decision is approved by the state.”