Pankaja Munde denies allegations of corruption

New Delhi: Maharashtra Women and Child Development Minister Pankaja Munde on Monday dismissed allegations of corruption to the tune of Rs 12,000 crore in the issuance of tenders by her department under Take Home Ration (THR) scheme, saying its annual allocation was just Rs 790.52 crore.

NCP had last week demanded an inquiry into the matter by Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and sought Munde’s dismissal from the Cabinet after the Bombay High Court struck down tenders worth Rs 12,000 crore issued by her department.

“The centrally-funded THR has a budgeted allocation of Rs 3,952.60 crore whereas the annual allocation is just Rs 790.52 crore. (In fact) the Aurangabad bench of the High Court had in its order approved the tender eligibility conditions of the government. (However), the tender has to be finalised,” Munde said.

The minister said she was issuing a clarification as a section of media has been stating varying amount of tenders.

“The THR scheme was introduced in 2009 by central government along with the extrusion technology. The previous tender in 2013 was based on primitive Roaster technology. This government has reintroduced the extrusion technology, which eliminates human touch, as mandated by Supreme Court judgement of 2011 in the Shagun Mahila Mandal case,” she said.

The HC had struck down the tenders last Monday on the complaint of irregularities by Self-help groups (SHGs) in issuance of the tenders. The tenders worth Rs 12,000 crore, issued by Munde’s department in February, were meant for supplying THR to 10,000-odd anganwadis (day care centres) in the state. THR is raw food grain given to anganwadi children for them to carry home and cook.

“The tender issued in 2013 did not have the clause for maintaining hygiene clause. The tender document and its conditions for eligibility were prepared keeping in mind the Supreme Court judgement,” Munde said. She said the conditions mentioned in the tender required installation of in-house laboratory for manufacturing units for testing.

Munde clarified that she had not awarded any contract to anyone.

“While the earlier tender did not have any condition that required womens Self Help Groups (SHG) to have any previous experience. A due care was taken while drafting the tender document and CAs and legal experts were hired to scrutinise documents. The government is committed to provide quality nutritious supplementary diet under the scheme,” she said.

Meanwhile, state Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said the government’s emphasis remains on ensuring zero tolerance towards corruption.