HC seeks details from GoI on amount sanctioned
SRINAGAR: In a fresh Public Interest litigation (PIL) filed before court against distribution and supply of substandard food items to the Anganwadi centres of Jammu and Kashmir, the J&K High Court on Wednesday sought information of the amount received from the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Union of India, for purchase and supply of nutritional items for these centres.
The petitioner, the People’s Welfare Forum organisation, stated through their counsel, Shafkat Nazir, that around 30,000 anganwadi centres are operational in J&K state wherein spurious and misbranded food items are supplied, thereby risking the lives of the children given these foods to consume.
The writ petition has been moved for rationalising the purchase and procurement of nutritional items required for public distribution under the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and for cancellation of the rate contract for the year 2018-19, under which substandard, spurious and misbranded food items were procured at exorbitant rates.
The petition alleges that the Mission Director, J&K, ICDS for extraneous considerations and mala-fide intentions and in active connivance with the so-called successful bidder issued approval order of annual rate contract for supply of nutritional items for ICDS programmes in Kashmir/Jammu Divisions for the year 2018-19 in his so-called capacity as Chairman of State Level Purchase Committee, which had already become Functus Officio due to expiry of term of office of the State Level Purchase Committee on 26.04.2018.
“That apart from the fact that the whole process of procurement and approval of rate contracts is patently void and illegal, the Chief Secretary of the state, Commissioner Social Welfare Department and Mission Director, J&K, ICDS in connivance with each other have approved the supply of all substandard, spurious, misbranded nutritional items at the cost of health and nourishment of thousands of young blooming buds to blue-eyed persons against whom prosecution is pending in different courts for supplying sub-standard food items,” the petition states.
The court was informed through the petition that the Food Safety department, whose services had to be co-opted to ensure the supply of registered, standard and branded food items, was deleted from the whole procurement process with ulterior design and motive to pave way for supply of sub-standard, un-registered and misbranded items.
The petitioner had also given the record of prosecutions launched by the prosecuting authority against M/S Rattan Oil Mills from whom biscuits have been ordered to be supplied.
“Rattan oil Mills appears to be manufacturing sub-standard biscuits, for which it is facing multiple prosecutions not only in Kashmir division but in Jammu division as well,” the petition pointed out.
Similarly from Wani Brothers, channa is being procured that is totally misbranded as per the test report submitted by the Food Safty and Standards department. “As such the indulgence of this Court is sought in the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case,” the petitioner organisation pleaded.
Advocate Shafkat Nazir stated before court that we cannot afford the supply of substandard food items to our children. He stated that despite the life of the procurement committee having expired, as it was only for six months, and that after expiry of six months neither the said committee was given any extension nor any approval from the administrative side, Mission Director J&K ICDS, Srinagar in total disregard has made almost 32 crores of payment to the contractors who are supplying substandard nutritional items to these centres.
Hearing the PIL, the division bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Alok Aradhe sought information on the amount received from the Ministry of Women and Child Development Union of India, for the purpose of purchase and supply of nutritional items for Anganwadi Centers in the State.
The respondents in case are Union of India through Secretary to Government, Ministry of Women and Child Development, New Delhi, State of J&K through Chief Secretary, Civil Secretariat Srinagar/ Jammu, Commissioner/Secretary to Government, Department of Social Welfare, Civil Secretariat Srinagar / Jammu, Mission Director J&K Integrated Child Development Services/ Scheme (ICDS) Old Secretariat, Srinagar, and Commissioner Food Safety J&K, Srinagar.