Procurement of books by Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan for its 1,122 schools has run into controversy after Akhil Bharatiya Hindi Prakashak Sangh, an association of publishers, complained to the HRD Ministry and the PMO alleging “corruption” and “illegality” in the selection process. The association has also sent a legal notice to KVS.
In its complaint dated April 8, ABHPS alleged that the KVS favoured a select few publishers. Of the 68 titles selected, 45 are of four Delhi-based publishers including 23 of Prabhat Prakashan and its nine associates, said the complaint. Of 70,000 copies of these books, over 25,000 are to be supplied by Prabhat Prakashan and its purported associates. Just 35 publishers are supplying “at least one copy” each of these 68 books to 1,122 schools, the complaint said.
This is the first time that KVS has procured books centrally for all schools. Earlier, principals of respective schools made localised purchases.
“If the department, under the influence of some publishers, tries to favour those publishers… and causes an inappropriate loss to other publishers, then this amounts to an offence under Prevention of Corruption Act,” reads the complaint, seeking “an immediate end” to “non-constitutional” procurement and “punishment” for “corrupt officers”.
The association alleged that when “they met KV deputy commissioner P V Sai Rangarao, he told them that the selection committee selected books following hard work of four hours”. Noting that since there were nearly 4,000 books to be chosen from, the complaint says that “if a committee takes even three minute to review each book, it will require 200 hours for reviewing 4,000 books”. “But it took just four hours, or 3.5 seconds for reviewing a book… even a fool can understand that within 3.5 seconds no one can even pick up and put a book down, let alone hold its review.”
Both KVS and Prabhat Prakashan have denied the charges.
In his reply to ABHPS on April 22, Rangarao wrote, “There is no truth in your allegations. For these baseless allegations against senior officers, KVS has reserved its right to act against you.”
Prabhat Prakashan’s Prabhat Kumar told The Indian Express: “The fact that we are giving maximum discount (45 per cent) itself suggests the fairness of the procedure. We know nothing about the selection procedure of books.”
In a statement to The Indian Express, KV Sangathan said, “The selection committee selected 68 titles based on merit under Category A (centralised order) in order to ensure uniform availability of books throughout the country. The 68 titles of selected books belonged to 35 publishers from New Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.” The statement added that “the books are recommended based on latest and emerging trends in education and society”. The statement noted the cost of the 68 books is Rs 3.67 crore, but it managed to secure a discount of 45 per cent or Rs 1.65 crore, hence the net price is Rs 2.02 crore.
About the first-ever centralised purchase, KVS said: “When individual schools purchased books, they could get a discount of just 10 per cent. We centralised it to ensure the maximum discount of 45 per cent.”
The 45 per cent discount, in fact, is inherent in the procurement process, not unique to the present case. According to rules under which KVS procures books, a publisher is always required to give a discount of 45 per cent if the number of copies is over 500.
Prabhat Kumar denied the allegation that nine publishers are Prabhat Prakashan associates: “We only distribute their books”. When The Indian Express visited two of these offices at Chawdi Bazar, Gyan Ganga and Satsahit Prakashan, both said they are “units of Prabhat Prakashan”.