HC calls for report on food served in Anganwadis; petitioner alleges substandard, spurious items procured at inflated rates

HC calls for report on food served in Anganwadis; petitioner alleges substandard, spurious items procured at inflated rates
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SRINAGAR: The J&K High Court on Wednesday called for a report from state authorities with respect to the issue of supplying misbranded/substandard food items to the state’s Anganwadi centres.
The Division Bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Sanjeev Kumar in a significant direction told the state government to reopen the issue with regard to the supply of nutritional items to the Anganwadi centers as the court has been apprised that the items being supplied to children in these centers are not of standard quality.
The Court was informed by Advocate Shafkat Nazir that the contract for the supply had been given to M/S Rattan Oil Mills, which is an already black-listed firm that is even standing trial for supplying adulterated food items.
As proof, the petitioner has placed on record the prosecutions launched by the prosecuting authority (Designated Officer under Food Standard Safety Act) against M/S Rattan Oil Mills, from whom the supply of biscuits was ordered.
Rattan Oil Mills appears to be manufacturing substandard biscuits for which it is facing multiple prosecutions not only in Kashmir division but in Jammu division as well. The biscuits constitute an important nutritional item supplied to thousands of Anganwadi centres across the state. Similarly, Channa is being procured from one Wani Brothers. As per a test report submitted by the Food Standard and Safety Department, the item is totally misbranded.
The Court was further informed that the Food Safety Department, which is a necessary member for the food monitoring committee, has been removed from the committee in order to avoid the proper checking of nutritional items served in the centres.
Funds for the purchase and supply of nutritional items at Anganwadi centres come from the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Union of India.
Advocate Nazir also submitted before the court that despite the expiry of the procurement committee’s term, which is for only six months, neither was the committee given any extension nor any approval from the administration. The Mission Director of the J&K Integrated Child Development Services/Scheme (ICDS), Srinagar, in total disregard of the rules has made almost Rs 7 crores of payment to the said contractor who is supplying the substandard items.
After hearing the petitioner counsel, the Division Bench remarked that the state authorities must look into this matter and file their report before court.
The writ petition has been moved for rationalising the purchase and procurement of nutritional items required for public distribution under the 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 with mala-fide intentions, 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 the term of office of the State Level Purchase Committee on 26.04.2018.
The petition states 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”.