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Possible BJP Corruption Thwarted? Supreme Court Strikes Down Maharashtra Govt’s Rs 6,300 Crore Food Contract

Women and Child Development Minister Pankaja Munde’s 2016 tender favoured big industrialists at the cost of women self-help groups, the court observed.

With the Lok Sabha elections at the doorstep, the Bharatiya Janta Party government in Maharashtra led by the chief minister Devendra Farndvis has suffered a major setback. On February 26, a Supreme Court bench comprising Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Deepak Gupta shot down a contract worth Rs 6,300 crores issued by Women and Child Development Minister Pankaja Munde, under the “Take Home Ration” scheme to provide nutrition at daycare centres or anganwadis in the state.

According to reports, the Ministry of Women and Child Development had issued a tender after getting approval from the state cabinet on March 8, 2016. The tender was for allotting contracts for the supply of “Take Home Ration” to anganwadis for five years, which could be extended for two more years.

The apex court noted that some of the technical and financial conditions introduced by the state BJP government in the tender notice were “arbitrary” and favoured “big players and industrialists in the field” at the cost of women self-help groups (SHGs).

Per an Indian Express report, Vaishnorani Mahila Bachat Gat, the petitioner in the case, had objected to the insistence of extrusion-based technology for the manufacture of the mixtures and the condition regarding annual financial turnover in the tender notice. The petitioner had argued that it effectively ruled out local SHGs from participating in the tender, and created a monopoly of sorts for a handful of big companies. “Increasing the area of supply increased the turnover requirement significantly, and this would have automatically disqualified most of the local SHGs and village communities,” the petitioner said.

In the judgment, Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Deepak Gupta stated, “The principal issue is whether the contracts for the supply should be given to local mahila mandals run along democratic lines with local women participating or whether such contracts ought to be given by the state to large corporates/contractors under the guise of the conditions of the tender. It has also been pointed out that under THR, normally dry mixtures such as daliya, khichdi, etc are supplied, which do not require sophisticated techniques for manufacturing. The SHGs are fully equipped and competent to supply the said food.”

The order further read, “The state governments are expected to undertake effective measures to ensure that SHGs are allowed to meaningfully participate in providing hot cooked meal and THR. The terms and conditions should not be framed in a way that they get excluded from participating itself in the tender.”

Also read: Maharashtra: BJP Minister Pankaja Munde Accused of Rs 106 Crore Scam

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