Large scale discrepancies and fraud have surfaced in the nutritional food programme for children, run by the Shivraj Singh Chauhan-led Madhya Pradesh government. The irregularities in the government programme, which are similar to Bihar’s fodder scam, have been exposed in an audit report by the MP Accountant General, as reported on Sunday.
According to the MP Accountant General’s report, the nutritional food programme or the ‘Take Home Ration’ (THR) scheme worth Rs 110.83 crores has been distributed only on paper.
The report claimed to have found irregularities in the identification of beneficiaries and distribution of free meals for school children, and huge disturbances in quality control under the government’s scheme. The high-level corruption has taken place under the nose of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who holds the Ministry of Women & Child Development, along with General Administration, Public Relations, Narmada Valley Development, and Aviation, among others.
Nutritional food is distributed to malnourished children and pregnant women in Anganwadis working under the Department of Women and Child Development in the state. The responsibility of providing nutritious food was given to private companies.
According to the report, the vehicles, mostly trucks, which were said to transport over 1100 tonnes of nutritional food, have actually turned out to be motorcycles and scooters. The report claimed that government officials gave at least Rs 7 crores to vehicle companies, to get fake vehicle numbers.
Reportedly, the registration numbers of the trucks which were given by the private companies to show the fake transportation of ration, were checked in all the states, including Madhya Pradesh. Upon verification, these vehicle numbers did not belong to trucks, but were registered as motorcycles, cars, auto-rickshaws or tankers.
The distribution of nutritional food to children and women, thus, seems to have been done only in theory.
In the investigation report, nearly 97,000 metric tonnes of nutritional food was said to be in stock in seven districts – Bhopal, Chhindwara, Dhar, Jhabua, Rewa, Sagar, Satna and Shivpuri – but only 87,000 metric tons of it was distributed. This means that at least 10,000 tonnes of food, worth Rs 62 crores went missing.
The report further claimed that irregularities were also found in the number of beneficiaries under this programme. During 2018-19, the school education department had estimated that 9,000 school girls are eligible for the ‘Take Home Ration’ scheme. However, the Women and Child Department registered more than 35 lakh beneficiaries without conducting a survey, despite the Centre’s suggestion to complete it and provide the total number of beneficiaries by April 2018.
The audit report further said that the irregularities were also committed in the quality of nutritional food, checked by an independent lab. It was found that no action was taken against the firms supplying about 40 thousand metric tonnes of substandard quality nutritional food. Additionally, no inquiries were made in this regard by the responsible officers. In lieu of this, the officers were also paid about Rs 238 crores.
The Hindustan Times reported that Rs 141 crores were paid in advance to the Madhya Pradesh State Rural Livelihood Mission for establishing seven plants, but, allegedly, not recovered.
According to reports, the major irregularities in the state run programme were found in the DPOS reports of Bhopal, Sagar and Chhindwara districts. Meanwhile, the Madhya Pradesh Accountant General has written to the chief secretary to investigate the matter.
Opposition Hits Out at Shivraj Govt
Reminding the Shivraj Singh government of the Vyapam Scam that broke out in 2013, the Congress has said that the Madhya Pradesh government is “ruining” the future of the state’s youth. “The Shivraj government of Madhya Pradesh has earlier hatched a conspiracy to ruin the future of youth by doing Vyapam scam and is now killing the rights of poor children and pregnant women,” tweeted the Congress, in Hindi.
Sitaram Yechury, the general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), also slammed the MP government and said that the effect of the “double-engine” BJP government was clear. He asked if central agencies would be taking any action against the irregularities found in the state-run scheme.
Taking a jibe at the Centre, TMC leader Derek O’ Brien said that the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation will not enter the BJP-run state to investigate the matter. Former BJP minister Babul Supriyo, who joined the TMC in September last year after Mamata Banerjee’s third victory in West Bengal, also demanded a CBI probe into the matter.
What Is The Scheme?
The ‘Take Home Ration’ comprises micronutrient fortified blended food and/or energy dense food, which is distributed to children between 6-36 months of age, and to pregnant/lactating women, for consumption at home. The principle behind providing the meal is to fill the nutrition gap, and improve feeding practices among infants and young children.
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