NEW DELHI: The Indian Council for Child Welfare (ICCW), which selects children for the National Bravery Awards every year, on Sunday denied the charges of financial embezzlement made against it by the Women and Child Development Ministry.
ICCW have been organising the Bravery Awards, but recently the financial integrity of the NGO was questioned by the Delhi High Court during hearings on a writ petition.
Following this, the government dissociated itself from the NGO and revamped the scheme of national awards for children to include the awards for bravery as well and rechristened it as Pradhan Mantri National Children Awards.
The ICCW, in a statement, said "it vehemently denies the false, motivated and mischievous allegations made in the writ petitions (in Delhi High Court against it)".
"The Delhi High Court is presently examining the merits of such allegations, and has not reached any final conclusion in this regard. The matter is sub judice. ICCW is fully committed to vindicating its name by participating in the proceedings before the court," the ICCW statement said.
ICCW President Gita Siddhartha said it does not understand on what grounds the FIR was filed against it.
The FIR has been registered by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, which was funding the ICCW for the National Creche Scheme as well as the National Bravery Awards.
"On examination of audited accounts of the ICCW, it has been ascertained that the ICCW has not refunded the unspent balance of Rs 5,44,002 for the year 2015-16 and Rs 83,99,852 and Rs 2,19,70,197 for the years 2014-15 and 2015-16 respectively," the ministry said on Thursday.
"In view of the findings of the internal inquiry committee and the fact that ICCW has failed to refund the unspent balance available with them and their downstream entities on accounts of grants under the National Creche Scheme, the ministry was forced to file an FIR against the ICCW for embezzlement of funds," it added.
Reacting to it, the ICCW said it is fully committed to vindicate its name by participating in the proceedings before the court.
It pointed out that the court has permitted ICCW to continue its activities.
"Creches to provide early child care services to children between 0-6 years was run by ICCW since forty years up to December 2016. During the period ICCW ran the programme, the Ministry of WCD would release the grant very late, invariably after 3 to 6 months," the ICCW said in a statement.
It said, to augment this delay, ICCW has spent its own resources.
"Every year, some unspent balances are available with our 32 State / U.T. Councils who ran the programme in 435 districts of India. This unspent balance is adjusted in the next year's grant. This has been the practice for 40 years and has never previously ever been brought into question."
ICCW, as required has submitted the detailed statement of the unspent balances duly audited to be recovered when the ministry release the grant for 2016-17, the statement said.
"Further, it may be noted that the government took a policy decision to de-centralize the Creche programme to State Governments for implementation in December 2016.
However, by that date, State Councils had incurred expenditure of approximately Rs.48 crores for which the MWCD has failed to make payment to ICCW/State Councils till date," the NGO said.
This failure continues despite the court's order for such dues to be cleared within a period of four weeks.
The position is abundantly clear that the ministry that has to reimburse Rs 48 crores for the 5,000 creches run by ICCW.
This together with interest at 10 per cent per annum amounts to Rs.50 crores approx that MWCD owes to the Indian Council for Child Welfare, it said.
"Furthermore, no alternate structure been put into place by most State Governments to continue providing early childhood care for our underprivileged children.
As such, lakhs of our children are uncared and unprotected, without a mid-day meal, thousands of poor workers unpaid and lakhs of mothers who are unable to go to work due to the absence of creche facilities," it said.
Reacting to media reports on 21 children selected by it for Bravery Awards have been left in lurch, Siddhartha said they have sent the names of the children to the Prime Minister's Office but have not heard from it yet.
"The ICCW has been handling the National Bravery Awards since 1957 and over 900 children have so far been presented with the awards."
The ICCW said it is happy that the ministry in their children's awards has added a category for bravery too.