Srinagar: The J&K High Court Monday directed Social Welfare Department to re-look into supply of nutritional items to Anganwadi centers, amid allegations of substandard supplies from “blacklisted suppliers”, and a “unauthorised purchases”.
The The Division Bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Sanjeev Kumar also told the department to submit a report before the court accordingly.
Earlier the state counsel told that court that the department was looking into “changing the manner” in which the food items were supplied to Anganwadi centres.
The directions came while hearing a petition which alleges that food items supplied to children in Anganwari centers were of substandard quality, supplied by “blacklisted firms”.
The petition also alleges that the entire purchase process was made by an unauthorised committee.
Advocate Shafkat Nazir, representing the petitioner, said the contract for the supply had been given to one M/S Rattan Oil Mills, which is a “black-listed firm” and “standing trial for supplying adulterated food items”.
The petitioner has placed on record prosecutions launched under Food Standard Safety Act against M/S Rattan Oil Mills, which is supplying biscuits for Anganwaris.
The supplier is facing multiple prosecutions not only in Kashmir 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.
Earlier, advocate Nazir had informed the court that after the expiry of the procurement committee’s term, (which is for six months), it had neither been 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,” the petition said.
The petition seeks rationalising of purchase and procurement of nutritional items required for public distribution under the ICDS and 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 Mission Director, J&K, ICDS of being in connivance with the “so-called successful bidder”, to whom he 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”.
“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”.