MUMBAI: A day after Express reported that Maharashtra government’s purchase of Broad Bed Furrow (BBF) machines, used for planting seeds, had raised a stink, it emerged on Monday that officials of state-run procurement agency, Maharashtra Agriculture and Industrial Development Corporation (MAIDC) are under Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ scanner over the purchase.
According to a confidential letter, which is in possession of Express, Fadnavis has sought a point to point report from Arvind Kumar, Managing Director of MAIDC, in connection with the purchase of the BBF planters.
The letter dated June 6 and signed by desk officer with Agriculture Department C D Adhyapak states: “I have attached a copy of a complaint filed by Borbaji Krishi Utpadan Sanstha, Pune, to the CM regarding above subject (inquiry against MAIDC officials in connection with irregularities in tender process). The complaint mentions that there were irregularities in tender process as well as purchase of BBF planters. Taking into account the CM’s remarks on the complaint letter a thorough inquiry be conducted and a point by point enquiry report be submitted through a special courier urgently.”
An investigation by Express has revealed that the vendors -- Mahashakti Agro, S R Engineering, Sai AgroTech, Prabhu Agro and Balaji and Company -- had outsourced production of the BBF planters to two firms -- Bhumi Agro and Bharat Agro -- based in Rajkot, Gujarat. According to the terms and conditions of the contract, the vendor cannot outsource the planters’ production.
A note released by the MAIDC on Monday stated that the sub contract of some parts of the machine were given according to rule and the BBF planters were not faulty. It also said that Sagar International, which reportedly made the lowest bid, did not participate in the tender process in 2013-14. “They have submitted their bid for 2015-16. The process is going on at the level of Agriculture Commissioner. Hence, we can’t disclose their rates. However, the rates are not as low as mentioned in the Express story.”
Express had reported that the company had the lowest bid at a rate of Rs 21,120 per BBF planter. The MAIDC admitted that it increased the number of vendors as the demand for BBF planters was growing.
It also stated that 16,000 BBF planters were supplied between April 2013 and March 2015 at a cost of Rs 76 crore and not Rs 125 crore as reported by Express. Kumar was not available for comment.
However, Agriculture Minister Eknath Khadse said that the government was ready for any inquiry into the matter. “All this process is conducted at the MAIDC level. I have already ordered an inquiry into it. If you want, I will go for a detailed inquiry by any agency, including the ACB (Anti-Corruption Bureau) or the CBI. If anyone is found guilty in the inquiry, we will lodge a criminal case against him/her,” Khadse said.