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Bengaluru: BBMP’s purchase of sweaters worth Rs 1.72 crore for students amid pandemic under scanner

Besides questions on whether it was necessary to make the purchase when educational institutions were shut, there have been allegations that the sweaters are overpriced and of poor quality.

Written by Kiran Parashar | Bengaluru |
Updated: August 27, 2021 1:16:54 pm
BBMP, BBMP sweatersMembers of Dalit Sangarsha Samiti on Monday stage protest in Bengaluru alleging scam in procurement of sweaters for students studying in BBMP schools and colleges.

The procurement and distribution of sweaters worth Rs 1.72 crore by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) for students in its schools and colleges during the Covid-19 period, when educational institutions were shut, have come under the scanner.

According to Dalit Sangarsha Samiti (DSS) president CS Raghu, the order for sweaters worth Rs 1.72 crore had been issued when schools and colleges had not yet opened, and the students are yet to receive it. Raghu has also alleged that the sweaters are of poor quality and overpriced.

Rejecting the allegations, BBMP Chief Commissioner Gaurav Gupta said it was the decision of the Standing Committee on Education to go ahead with the purchase. “The decision to buy sweaters for children in BBMP schools was taken by the Education Standing Committee before the BBMP Council was dissolved. It has been supplied and quality checks have been carried out. However, I have asked for a report on the same. If there is any scam as alleged, we will initiate a probe and take action,” he promised.

Asked whether the sweaters have reached the beneficiaries, he said, “I believe it has, but I am not sure.”

In the wake of the allegations, BBMP has sought a report from its Education wing on the procurement. A preliminary report by the wing shows that a work order in this regard was issued on April 27, 2020, to the Karnataka Handloom Development Corporation Limited (KHDC). The order was placed when the entire country was under a lockdown and schools and colleges were shut.

According to the report, 16,167 sweaters have been distributed to 14,150 students. This includes 2,416 students in 16 primary schools, 5,807 students in 33 high schools, 4,712 students in 15 PU colleges and 1,232 students in four graduate and two postgraduate colleges.

The Indian Express is in possession of documents, which show that the Special Commissioner (Finance) Thulasi Maddineni had objected to the procurement. “We did not have schools (open) in 2020-21. Why were these procured? Please discuss,” Maddineni said in a note to the Special Commissioner (Education) last month.

BBMP had released funds for the procurement with the approval of the Chief Commissioner. However, before the money was released, the BBMP workers’ federation had written to the Chief Commissioner in July 2020 flagging that the sweaters were being bought at rates 200-300 per cent higher than its market price. The Indian Express has a copy of the letter.

According to official records, the KHDC procured the sweaters from a vendor allegedly linked to BJP leader Jaggesh’s brother and film actor Komal. While Komal has denied his involvement in the supply of sweaters to BBMP-run educational institutions, sources in the KHDC said the actor’s brother had personally approached many BJP leaders to get the money released.

Speaking to The Indian Express, KHDC chairperson Siddu Savadi said the work order was given by the BBMP and the supply was made accordingly. “I do not want to comment on whether Komal had approached me but, if so, he can run the business and if he has supplied, he is entitled to get the money,” Savadi said.

Asked about the quality of the sweaters, he said it had been checked by the quality assessment teams of the KHDC and BBMP. “I have not seen the sweaters,” he said.

Enquiries at a few BBMP schools revealed that the sweaters are yet to be distributed to students. In one school, they were stored in the principal’s chamber. “We got a letter which made it seem like we had raised a demand for the supply of sweaters. We were told to sign and send it back, which we did out of fear of consequences,” the Principal of a BBMP school said on condition of anonymity, adding, “It was unnecessary as students were not attending classes. Also, these sweaters are totally sub-standard.”

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