SRINAGAR, Nov 28: High Court today directed the Government to relook the purchase and procurement of nutritional items supplied to the Anganwari Centers in the State and apprise the court about the steps taken in this regard on next date.
The Division Bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Sanjeev Kumar, in a significant direction, asked the State Government to relook into the issue with regard to supplying of nutritional items to the Anganwari Centers in the State as the Court has been apprised that these items are not of standard quality which are being given to the children in these centers.
Court has been informed by Advocate Shafkat Nazir that the contract has been given to a firm – M/s Rattan Oil Mills- which has already been blacklisted and the case is also pending against the firm in a court of law for supplying adulterated food items.
As proof petitioner has placed the record of prosecutions launched by the prosecuting authority (Designated officer under Food Standard Safety Act) 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 region as well. The biscuits constitute an important nutritional item supplied to thousands of Anganwadi centers across the State. Similarly from one Wani Brothers, ‘Channa’ is being procured which is totally misbranded as per the test report submitted by Food Standard and Safety department.
Court further has been informed that the Food Safety Department, which is a necessary member for monitoring committee, has been removed from the committee in order to avoid the proper checking of nutritional items to the centers.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development Union of India has to provide the funds for the purpose of purchase and supply of nutritional items for Anganwari centers in the State.
Advocate Nazir also submitted before the court that despite the life of procurement committee expired which was only for six months and after expiry neither the said committee was given any extension nor any approval from administrative side, Mission Director J&K Integrated Child Development Services/ Scheme (ICDS), Srinagar in total disregard has made almost Rs 7 crores of payment to the said contractor, who is supplying substandard nutritional items to these centers.
On the other hand, counsel appearing for Social Welfare Department submitted before the court that State Level Committees for the said purpose are being revamped by the Government and in its place Village
Level Committees will run the affairs of these centers as such no question arises for providing substandard nutritional items to these centers.
The Department of Social Welfare though its Commissioner/ Secretary had constituted a State level Purchase Committee for procurement of items under ICDS scheme and the committee was directed to operate for a period of 6 months or till Village Level Councils (VLCs) become operational or whichever is earlier.
But Village Level Councils (VLCs) advocate counsel submitted, are still non entities having never been constituted for the purpose. As such said Government order reconstituting the State Level Purchase Committee was to remain in force 27.10.2017 till 26.04.2018.
It is submitted in the petition that the said Purchase Committee, as per Government order supra was to expire on 26th April 2018. The life of the State Level Purchase committee was neither extended nor any fresh purchase committee was constituted or any Village Level Council was put in place.
The petitioner organization (JK Peoples Forum) through its secretary has voiced before the court about the method and manner of procurement / purchase of the nutritional items required for distribution among more than 15 lakh children belonging to disadvantaged communities through about 30,000 Anganwadi Centers across the State.
The Mission Director (ICDS) in the month of April this year invited tenders for procurement of various nutritional items for supplying them to the Anganwari centers of Jammu & Kashmir for the year 2018-19 with some conditions therein.
“Therefore, any process of procurement undertaken by the Respondents Chief Secretary, Commissioner/Secretary SWD and Mission Director ICDS is illegal and any procurement made under the said NITs is bad in law and visited by evil consequences”, read the PIL.