Monday April 22, 2019
Home Politics Achhe din? Ma...

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

0
//
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)

Next Story

Is NYAY Going To Be A Game Changer for Congress?

The concerns about funds being used for harmful purposes cannot be ruled out. It is due to these challenges many policymakers suggest that instead of making welfare payments to poor households in the form of unrestricted cash transfers the government should focus on in-kind transfers.

0
Congress on Friday promised to create one crore jobs across the southern state
Congress state units given more power for 2019 battle- wikimedia commons

By Amit Kapoor & Manisha Kapoor 

The idea of launching Nyuntam Aay Yojana, a cash transfer scheme that intends to provide Rs 72,000 per year to the poorest 20 per cent Indian families, by the Congress Party if it comes to power, has stirred a debate among the policymakers about whether the move is economically viable or is just a tactic by the Congress Party to garner votes in the upcoming general elections.

The discussions are foreseeable, provided that this intervention to ensure basic income to the poor households will cost the country somewhere between 1.5 per cent to 3.4 per cent of GDP, a number higher than the government’s expenditure on healthcare and education. The implementation of NYAY means an additional cost between Rs 3.6 lakh crore to Rs 7.2 lakh crore per year.

To put things in perspective, the expenditure of the proposed scheme is 2.2 times the budget of all centrally sponsored schemes. The party claims that they have worked out all the fiscal calculations before launching the scheme. However, this will be a major dent in India’s budget expenditure and will explode the fiscal deficit from the current 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.

money
An impact evaluation study by UNICEF in Sub-Saharan Africa showed that with the exception of temporary price rise during payment period, cash transfers has no impact on the prices. Pixabay

Apart from fiscal prudence, the other immediate concern surrounding the scheme is the identification of beneficiaries and the database that will be used for this. There is no official income database available with the government at the individual level and since most of the poor work in unorganised rural areas, there is no direct way of verifying their incomes such as through a payroll or income tax.

The proponents of the approach state that a good starting point could be Socio Economic Caste Census of 2011 if one goes by multi-dimensional aspect of poverty. However, one can’t ignore the fact that even if the scheme defines poverty by assets and not income for quick exclusion rules, the data is outdated. A scheme targeted at reducing poverty can’t use data that is seven-eight years old. Even if one ignores that, it should be noted that there are major methodological issues with how data was collected. This is reflected in the discrepancies that exist in the data collected through SECC and other governmental data. A fresh survey for the identification process will lead to possibilities of corruption as in other targeted schemes. For instance, various studies have shown that many people who are not below poverty line have BPL cards.

One should also keep in mind that there exist significant disparities across Indian states and districts in terms of income levels and affordability of basic needs such as education, healthcare etc. Therefore, the same amount that means a lot to a person living in a low-income state or a state that has good access to public facilities such as public hospitals, schools etc would not be enough for a person trying to make a living in a high-income region. As a result, a prerequisite for such a scheme is a detailed regional level survey on income characteristics of Indian states and districts.

money

To put things in perspective, the expenditure of the proposed scheme is 2.2 times the budget of all centrally sponsored schemes. The party claims that they have worked out all the fiscal calculations before launching the scheme. Pixabay

Another major concern surrounding the scheme is its inflationary implications. It is argued that the act of transferring cash to the target population will boost their purchasing power, which would lead to an increase in demand for goods and services and, thus, push prices upwards. Advocates of the approach have tried to argue that studies around the world present a lot of evidence to the contrary.

An impact evaluation study by UNICEF in Sub-Saharan Africa showed that with the exception of temporary price rise during payment period, cash transfers has no impact on the prices. However, these evidences should be considered with a pinch of salt. They rest on the assumption that the money will be spent on useful goods, that will help the local economy in becoming more productive. Though this will not be the case always.

Also Read: Food Unites People Across The Globe

The concerns about funds being used for harmful purposes cannot be ruled out. It is due to these challenges many policymakers suggest that instead of making welfare payments to poor households in the form of unrestricted cash transfers the government should focus on in-kind transfers. This idea is supported by claim that in-kind transfers will help by encouraging the consumption of right things, such as healthy food.

Given India’s concerns about rising unemployment rates, jobless growth and the fact that we need to have effective utilization of our young population to gain a competitive edge over other economies, the promoters are trying to project that NYAY can prove to be a game changer. However, for the Indian economy, a better alternative would be to strengthen the existing public services landscape by removing social, political and personal barriers, along with carrying out structural reforms that leads to creation of more productive jobs. (IANS)