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Achhe din? Maharashtra’s BJP minister Pankaja Munde embroiled in Rs.2 bn scam

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Image courtesy DNA
Image courtesy DNA

 

Mumbai: Maharashtra’s Women and Child Development Minister Pankaja Munde was on Wednesday embroiled in a controversy involving alleged irregularities in awarding contracts worth Rs.206 crore (Rs.2.06 billion) with the Congress demanding a CBI probe in the matter.

The minister — daughter of union minister Gopinath Munde who died in a road accident in New Delhi last year — is accused of doling out the multi-crore-rupee contracts through multiple Government Resolutions (GRs) on a single day (February 13) instead of adopting the e-tendering or tender route.

Among the allegations against Munde are irregularities in awarding contracts for workbooks for students, water filters, growth monitoring machines for malnourished kids, medicines and ‘chikkis’ (sweets cookies with nuts and dry fruits in a jaggery base).

Presently in the US, Munde rubbished all allegations in an email statement and claimed that some of her dynamic decisions as minister to reduce corruption have upset some “money-minded bunch of people”.

“I have not broken any rules, as far as I am concerned… I also do not fear any allegations. I’m here to do the best for those kids and women and I will do it,” Munde said.

Not satisfied with the explanation, Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant lodged a formal complaint with the state Anti-Corruption Bureau demanding a probe into the allegations against Munde.

Former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan termed the matter as serious and urged the government to hand it over to the Central Bureau of Investigation for a probe.

As per the state government’s norms set in December 2014, e-tendering is a must for all contracts in excess of Rs.3 lakh and in cases where the rates were fixed, e-tendering was mandatory for contracts worth Rs.1 crore since April this year.

A clarification issued by her department said the purchases were made under the rates approved by the central government’s director general of supplies and disposals.

The note also said that in view of the approved rates, there was no need for e-tendering and although e-tendering was a must since April for all such contract exceeding Rs.1 crore, the contracts in question were awarded during the previous financial year (2014-2015).

Among the irregularities Munde is accused of are a contract to a Navi Mumbai-based firm for students’ workbooks worth Rs.5.6 crore with the cheque issued to its proprietor in his personal capacity, and an approval to purchase water filters from a Nashik-based company at Rs.4,500 per unit — but Munde allegedly hiked the cost to Rs.5,200 per unit, although the company had no manufacturing facilities and was to outsource the product, violating government norms.

Besides, two separate orders were issued to purchase growth monitoring machines, used to weigh undernourished kids, and awarded to two separate parties at a cost of Rs.18 crore and Rs.6 crore, respectively, and approval of a medical kit at Rs.720 per unit — but since the provision was for only Rs.500 per kit, the supplier was allegedly permitted to reduce the number of medicines in the kit to keep it within the limit.

The last one was a contract to purchase ‘chikkis’ from a women’s NGO based in Sindhudurg at a cost of Rs.37 crore, which was allegedly hiked by Munde to Rs.75 crore, though the NGOs manufacturing facilities were not ascertained.

Referring to this, the departmental statement said that contrary to media reports (not IANS), the contract was not for ‘chikkis’ worth Rs.114 crore but Rs.52 crore and Rs.23 crore for two different varieties.

Another Rs.41 crore has been directly disbursed in advance to the ‘aanganwadis’ for buying eggs and bananas for children.

There has been no reaction from Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on the allegations clouding his cabinet colleague, though some minister have defended Munde who was once a chief ministerial candidate.

(IANS)

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More Power Given to Congress State Units For 2019 Battle

The source also said that the state units have been asked to prepare a "charge-sheet" about the Modi government and its policies, particularly issues affecting the economy

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Congress on Friday promised to create one crore jobs across the southern state
Congress state units given more power for 2019 battle- wikimedia commons

Bracing up for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress has accorded more powers and autonomy to its state units in deciding candidates as well as strategising for publicity and coordination.

According to informed sources, in a meeting of the Congress core committee with state presidents held on Thursday in the national capital, the central leadership asked the state units to fill up vacancies in block and district committees at the earliest besides identifying probable candidates for the 2019 mega battle in the respective states.

“Keeping in view that there will be state-specific alliances and electoral understandings, the state units have been asked to identify potential seats that can be spare for the allies. The emphasis is also on reaching out to the grassroots and build connect with the masses at booth levels,” said a party source.

The source also said that the central leadership harped on finalising the candidate lists providing ample time for discussions on seat sharing with probable allies.

Besides the national issues including the Rafale deal, agrarian distress and unemployment, the state units have also been given a say to have local issues accommodated in the party manifesto for 2019.

credit: www.indiawires.com

Congress President Rahul Gandhi has constituted a 19-member Manifesto Committee to chalk out the manifesto for the general elections.

The source also said that the state units have been asked to prepare a “charge-sheet” about the Modi government and its policies, particularly issues affecting the economy.

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Gandhi has already constituted a nine-member “core committee” to supervise and organise the party’s preparations for general elections that includes party veterans like A.K. Antony, Ghulam Nabi Azad, P. Chidambaram and Mallikarjun Kharge.

With the party persistently raising the issue of tampering of electronic voting machines (EVMs), state units have also been asked to organise workshops to educate the party workers about the functioning of the machines and guard against any malpractices. (IANS)