MUMBAI: Maharashtra Minister for Women and Child Development Pankaja Munde on Saturday claimed that she was not the lone decision maker in the purchase of various items for anganwadis in the state that cost `206 crore. The purchase, approved by her in a single day, has been mired in controversy after it was revealed that it had been done after bypassing the rules.
Munde, who is holidaying in London, told a Marathi news channel, “I had the approval of the Chief Minister for the purchase on rate contract basis. The former government too had purchased chikki through rate contract. I have not broken any rule.”
Her department had issued 24 Government Resolutions (GR) on February 13 approving the purchase of chikki, water filters, steel dishes and plastic mats etc. She claimed that she had cleared the purchase proposals after thoroughly going through it.
However, the documents available with Express tell a different story. Most of the purchase proposals reached Munde’s office on February 12 and 13 and she would not have had the time to go through them thoroughly.
She said that all documents pertaining to the purchase were available in the public domain and she had nothing to hide. “We had received an additional `122 crore from the Centre under ICDS (Integrated Children Development Scheme). It was mandatory to spend the money only on nutritious food for the children. I am a mother. I understand what a child needs. I have always been sensitive to the needs of the children. So I approved the purchase of chikki with a good intention,” she said.
Regarding the inferior quality of the product, she tried to pass the buck to the district level officials. “I have heard about clay and sand found in the chikki. I will ask the district-level officials to investigate that. We will take action if they are found guilty,” she said.
Munde refused to step down following the controversy. “I have not done anything wrong. I am giving answers to all questions. I am not crazy after any post. The people have elected me for that,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena hinted that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis may have played a crucial role in the recent controversies involving the state ministers to eliminate his political rivals. “Vinod Tawde and Pankaja are the future candidates for the CM’s post. There is scope to believe that it was an internal sabotage to clip their wings,” an editorial in Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna stated. Education Minister Tawde was in the news after it became clear that a Pune-based institute, from where he secured a degree in engineering, was not a recognised one. Refuting the charge Pankaja said, “Our party leadership is not so childish. My party has stood firmly behind me,” she said.
Interestingly, even as the Congress attacked Pankaja, another Opposition party, the NCP has kept mum on the issue.