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Pune: 17 lakh masks under scanner, but PCMC panel approves payment to suppliers

Sena member of standing committee voices dissent; civic commissioner says will recover money if supplies found to be of poor quality.

Written by Manoj Dattatrye More | Pune |
Updated: June 17, 2020 11:52:32 pm
However, Municipal Commissioner Shravan Hardikar said this will not affect the civic administration’s probe and if the masks were found to be of poor quality, then the amount will be recovered from the contractors. (AP Photo)

Despite a probe underway over allegations that 17 lakh face masks supplied to the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) for distribution in slums, chawls and containment zones were of poor quality, the PCMC standing committee on Wednesday approved a payment of Rs 1.7 crore to contractors.

However, Municipal Commissioner Shravan Hardikar said this will not affect the civic administration’s probe and if the masks were found to be of poor quality, then the amount will be recovered from the contractors.

“We will complete the investigation and recover the amount from those who are found guilty of supplying poor quality masks,” Hardikar said.

Hardikar had earlier told the committee that the matter can be kept pending till the investigation was over.

In a general body meeting earlier this month, Hardikar had said some of the masks were of “very poor quality”, prompting demands for a probe from NCP corporators. Accordingly, the civic chief had set up a three-member committee to probe the issue.

PCMC standing committee chairman Santosh Londhe said, “Though the panel has sanctioned the amount to be paid to the suppliers, the PCMC chief has already said the administration will recover the amount if the masks are of poor quality. Let the administration complete the probe and take action, we have no problem.”
Eleven members of the 16-member PCMC standing committee are from BJP, four are from NCP and only one is from Shiv Sena.

Rahul Kalate, the Sena member, opposed the proposal to approve the payment to the mask suppliers. “I don’t understand the hurry to hand over the amount to those who short charged the poor and the PCMC,” Kalate said. “I was the lone dissenter while BJP and NCP members kept quiet,” he told The Indian Express.

“The PCMC chief had said the matter can remain pending till the probe is over, but the BJP-dominated standing committee had already made up its mind to foot the bill for the poor quality masks…” Kalate said. He alleged that the panel sided with the suppliers “because the suppliers were close to BJP leaders”.

Hardikar said that the civic body had provided samples according to which the suppliers – 13 self-help groups – were supposed to provide masks. “They were supposed to provide us three-layer cloth masks. The quality of the first few lot was okay, but the later lots were of extremely poor quality…” he said. Of the 17 lakh masks, two lakh were meant for distribution in the temple town of Dehu.

Of the 13 self-help groups that supplied the masks, two are civic contractors, Kalate claimed.

Meanwhile, the civic general body meeting, which was supposed to be held on June 20 to approve the regularisation of jobs for 103 Covid-19 doctors, has been postponed to the first week of July, said Hardikar.

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