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Over 14,500 Anganwadi Centres in Jammu go dry as ICDS Projects fail to ensure nutrition supply

Out of Rs 250 cr Central funds, just Rs 100 cr spent

Gopal Sharma

JAMMU, Feb 25: Over 14,500 Anganwadi Centres in Jammu Division have gone dry as the State Social Welfare Department (SWD) has failed to provide food and nutrition supplies to these Centres, forcing children to stay away from the ‘Anganwadis’ despite the fact that current  financial year has reached the fag end.
The height of  ‘irresponsibility ’  and ‘inefficiency ‘  on the part of some officers can be gauged  in district Samba from the fact that,  the District Level Purchase Committee has not bothered  to make purchases  of nutrition items for the poor children,  enrolled in  Anganwadi Centres,  during last two years while the funds worth crores were allowed to lapse.
Sources said that Government is providing funds to the tune of over Rs 100 crores every year to the Department  for purchasing food and nutrition items for the poor children in the age group of  3 to 6 years in nearly 30,000 Anganwadi Centres under Integrated Child Development Scheme ( ICDS)  in various projects.   Fifty percent of the total amount is provided to the State in the beginning of the new Financial year.
The amount is kept lying with the officers at the helm of affairs but they didn’t bother to hold Purchase Committee meetings  and finalise the rate contracts for months together.
This old practice deprives  the Anganwadi Centres children of the food and nutrition items. They do it at the end of the financial year in hush- hush manner and in the process many substandard and adulterated items also get cleared with the nexus at lower level.  The items cleared and approved by the District Committee  may be of fine quality, but some  sub-standard items also get place in the ICDS godowns calendestinely.
Sources in the SWD told the Excelsior that after nutrition scam was unearthed in district Samba and many food items purchased by the District Committee were proved substandard about two years ago, the District  Purchase Committee there after failed to procure food and nutrition items for the children of  over 800  Anganwadi Centres in the district.
The case is also pending in the State Vigilance Department and the ‘official-contractors’  nexus was also unearthed during the investigation by the agency.   Interestingly, the people at the helm of affairs managed to get some of the items cleared from the Labs where the samples were sent for testing. And the concerned PO instead of  punishment,  was  rewarded  and accorded promotion by the Government.
The reports from various Anganwadi Centers in district Samba and  Jammu revealed that only FCI supply of rice have been provided in the Centres that too, about five  months ago by the concerned CDPOs but thereafter,  no other recipe or other food items including pulses, grams, Nutri, edible oils, salt, etc were provided in the Centres  till date. While the Centres in all the districts of Jammu are lying dry, in Samba it is happening for the last two years. The same is the case in other districts of the region.
Sources said that the basic purpose of opening these Centres  by the Union Government is to provide healthy diet to the children of  the BPL and other categories among poorest of  the poor.  But that purpose has been defeated with the non supply of these items. Teen aged girls are also educated in the Centres.
The money being sent by the Government of India for them is going to be unspent or diverted to the other sectors.   The District Administration Samba failed to utilize Rs 12 crore in last two years meant for purchase of food and nutrition items while the annual allocation of district Jammu alone is over Rs 25 crore in terms of food and nutrition items. Till today,  no tenders have been called for making purchases for the year which is going to be closed on March 31, 2017.  Even the concerned public representatives/ MLAs of  these districts are also unconcerned about the matter.
Sources revealed that despite unrest in Kashmir valley, almost all the District Programme Officers   and CDPOs have purchased the nutrition items and distributed supplies in  almost all the districts. Even in Leh and Kargil areas,  there is no such problem as is being experienced in the ICDS projects in Jammu division. In Kathua and Reasi districts the purchase committees approved  the ‘partial’ food items in January but supplies are yet awaited. Rajouri District  Purchase Committee hardly  cleared the supply items just in first week of this month but supplies and tender  process would take at least 30 to 45 days time. Ramban district cleared some items during middle of February  but supplies are expected only in April, which fall in next financial year. It is apprehended that  about Rs 35 to 40  crore  amount of ICDS projects will remain unutilized and is likely to be diverted to the other sectors as being done in the past, the sources maintained.
Minister for Social Welfare Department, Sajjad Gani Lone when contacted expressed his displeasure and shock over the matter.  He said that he was not aware of the matter that supplies have not been made in the Anganwadi Centres till date in Jammu Division. Lone said he will inquire into the matter as to why  more than 4 lakh children of   Anganwadi Centres in Jammu province are deprived of food and nutrition.
When asked that due to alleged ‘suppliers-officials nexus’  in some districts, this practice is happening and the supplies are made at the fag end of  the financial year due to the reason best known to the people at  the helm of affairs, the Minister said, “ This is going to be the thing of past now. All such illegal activities will be brought to an end. I will hold the officers responsible for this lapse.  I think it has happened and especially in district Samba in last two years,  due to lack of accountability. I will hold an inquiry into the matter. We are getting Central allocation worth Rs 250 crore  every year for this purpose  and unfortunately our officers are unable to spend even Rs 100 crores, “ the Minister maintained.
Lone further revealed that this entire old pattern of supplies is being replaced by new system and with this the nexus shall also be  broken. The village level 15- member committees headed by a president and concerned supervisor   as member secretary shall make the purchases and they will also supervise the quality of food being provided to the community children in that particular area centres. It is going to be happened from next financial year.  He said funds will be transferred directly into their accounts of the VLCs and they will make purchases from their respective areas.  Lone said he would try his best with his abilities to stream line the system and plug the pilferage.
Deputy Commissioner Samba, Sheetal Nanda, who is chairperson of the District Purchase Committee,  for Samba when contacted claimed that there was no response from the  suppliers  and therefore, food and nutrition items could not be purchased for the Anganwadi Centres during this year. And same was the condition during last year. She said there are several officers in the Purchase Committee like  Programme Officer ICDS, CMO, Assistant Director CAPD, Treasury Officer etc and due to lack of quorum the meeting could not be held some times.
When asked whether children of   nearly 800  Anganwadi Centres of district Samba will be deprived of  their right of food and nutrition merely for the reason that there was no response  from suppliers even after calling tenders twice or thrice, the DC said she has written  to the Secretary Social Welfare Department. “ We have no other option for making purchases.  They should either allow us to make purchases on the rates approved by adjoining district or suggest other measures,” the DC claimed.
Project Director ICDS, J&K, Talat Parvez, however, claimed that in Kashmir and Ladakh regions food and nutrition  items have been supplied to all the Anganwadi  Centres and there is no problem at all. In Jammu division also many districts have approved  the supplies and the process is going  on. He claimed that 18 districts have approved the items while in others it is yet awaited. “ We have given them reminders and it is hoped that they will also ensure the supplies shortly. These supplies are under the control of Deputy Commissioners who are the chairpersons of the District Level Purchase Committee.  Some times the meetings are delayed  and that may also be one of the reasons of delay,” Parvez said.

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