MUMBAI:Maharashtra’s Rs 206-crore purchase scam, exposed by Express, is getting murkier day by day as papers sought under the RTI have revealed the scam’s hitherto unknown side. The papers show that two different suppliers allegedly involved in the scam have the same contact number. It indicates that these suppliers could be operating as someone else’s pawns.
The Women and Child Welfare Department had awarded contract on February 13 to Suryakanta Women’s Cooperative Organisation to supply chikki (groundnut candy) in anganwadis in 26 districts for Rs 75 crore. The department, on the same day, also awarded a contract to Everest Industries to supply water purifiers at a cost of Rs 6.9 crore. Now, it has become clear that the contact number for both these suppliers was the same.
A letter issued by the office of the Joint Director of Industries on February 12 to the Aurangabad-based Everest Industries clearly mentions the company’s contact number as 9823322798. Interestingly, the Sindhudurg-based Suryakanta also has published the same as its customer care number. The number has been printed on the wrapper of the chikki supplied by it. Mobile app True Caller showed that the number was registered in name of one Ramdas Chavan. However, no one responded when a call was made to the number. “It is not a coincidence. Suryakanta and Everest are not run by the same person. Their products too are different. I suspect their middleman is the same and they are working at his/her behest,” a source said.
RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar echoed the views. “This is not a coincidence. That means somebody is running this racket and all the so-called suppliers and contractors are pawns,” he said. The Industries Department had finalised the suppliers qualified under the controversial rate contract system. Industries Minister Subhash Desai was not available for comment.
Congress legislator Chandrakant Raghuvanshi alleged that three to four big shot contractors influence the smaller ones to work as their dummies. Raghuvanshi had raised the issue in the monsoon session of the Legislature. He, however, did not disclose any names. Tests by Food and Drugs Administration found the chikki inedible. The Bombay HC has started hearing on a PIL filed by Navi Mumbai-based activist Sandeep Ahire in connection with the poor quality of the chikki.
Maharashtra government stands accused of clearing purchase of items such as chikki, mats, dishes and books by flouting the rules at a cost of Rs 206 crore
Purchases cleared the same day - Feb 13 - via 24 Government Resolutions that were hurriedly issued — a state administration record
Following Express expose, CM Fadnavis ordered an inquiry into the purchase under rate contract system since 1999
Women and Child Welfare Minister Pankaja Munde has maintained that there was no corruption