A YEAR after charges of irregularities in procurement of chikki and other products by Maharashtra’s women and child department surfaced, Suryakanta Mahila Audyogik Sahakari Sanstha, a Sindhudurg-based NGO which allegedly supplied the substandard chikki and was awarded contracts worth Rs 114 crore, has been forced to partially shut down operations and cut jobs.
The controversy over contracts worth Rs 206 crore — including Rs 114 crore to Suryakanta — being awarded in a single day by the department, headed by BJP minister Pankaja Munde, leading to charges of irregularities in purchase and nepotism, resulted in loss of contracts and closure of Suryakanta’s chikki unit, which employs 150 women.
Suryakanta, headed by a local Congress leader, Pradnya Parab, used to secure multi-crore contracts from the government for supply of chikki, primarily for supplementary nutrition to anganwadis. All the organisation’s employees are women.
“We had trained women from several self help groups in production, assembly and packaging and would give them work for about four months in the non-agricultural season. This was when we would get orders for supply. But now, the organisation has lost a bulk of its orders and the chikki production unit has shut down,” said M K Gawade, advisor to Suryakanta.
While the NGO battled allegations of the chikki being sub-standard, the government-tested laboratory reports later certified it as normal.
Gawade said Suryakanta’s turnover, now based solely on sale of its horticultural products, has shrunk to about Rs 2 crore from about Rs 30 crore.
The Bombay High Court is hearing a PIL on allegations of irregularities in procurement of chikkis. While it was Congress’s Sachin Sawant who first complained to the Anti Corruption Bureau about alleged irregularities in the contracts, Suryakanta’s leadership continues to maintain loyalty to the Congress.