Bookmark and Share  

How funds of ` 700 Cr NRHM are plundered in J&K-(III)
All firms' tenders filled up by same person
Identical rates quoted by four CPSEs
Manufacturing-specific price preference benefit applied also
to 'marketing' activity of firms

Excelsior Special Correspondent

JAMMU, Mar 14: Funds to the tune of ` 4.37 Crore were separately released and transferred electronically to Director of Health Services Jammu (DHJ) and Director of Health Services Kashmir (DHK) for purchase of the drug kits for thousands of health institutions and ASHA workers in Jammu and Kashmir, in 2010-11.

While as the process progressed 'smoothly' in Jammu, hiccups came up in Srinagar. Head of the Srinagar-based Purchase Committee and then Principal of Government Medical College Srinagar, Dr Shahida Mir, refused to be part of the NRHM loot-and-scoot.

Vide his letter No: DHSK/Kits/2010-11/1775-77 dated 12-01-2010, Dr Amin Wani asked the Purchase Committee in Srinagar to assess and approve the rates for the supplies. After a meeting, Srinagar-based Purchase Committee communicated its decision to DHK through its Member-Secretary, vide No: PS/AIJ/MCS/1847-48 dated 25-01-2011. It reads: "It was unanimously decided that in view of the guidelines referred to in the letter from Govt of India, Mission Director National Rural Health Mission can purchase the drugs as per rules".

As per verbal instructions from the top, the handpicked incharge DHJ, Dr Ashok Sharma, constituted an 'Experts Committee' for processing the tenders and approving the rates. It comprised Dr Subhash Bhagat, Deputy Director Headquarters at Directorate of Health Services Jammu, Dr HL Sharma, Controller of Stores in Jammu, Dr Sham Gopal, District Nutrition Officer, and Bhushan Anand, Assistant Accounts Officer at DHS Jammu.

The committee shut its eyes completely to the key factors of suspicion. Without raising a question, its members observed that all the four tenders of the CPSEs had been filled up by one individual with no change in any of the rates. All the four were noticed to have quoted the rate of ` 1878 for 4,000 ASHA Kits to be purchased for Jammu division for the year 2010-11. Drug kits of same specifications had been purchased by the department at ` 931, just a year back in 2009-10.

Without any changes or negotiations, supplies were distributed equally among the four CPSE bidders. Their identically quoted rate of ` 1,878 each kit was allotted for all the 4,000 ASHA drug kits, causing huge loss to the State exchequer. Nearly 100% increase in rates of all the items was allowed and approved without questioning.

For the supplies in Jammu division, the bidders identically quoted ` 1,878 for each of 4,000 ASHA kits. They also quoted ` 6,559 for each of the 968 Sub Center-A kits, ` 4,368 for each of 968 Sub Center-B kit, ` 54,929 for each of 162 PHC drug kits, ` 60,832 for each of 30 RTI/STI drug kits, ` 2,77,818 for each of 28 FRU kits, `98,919 for each of 35 CHC drug kits and ` 46,826 for each of 162 drug kits for the sick newborn babies.

Tenders for Jammu were received on 12-01-2011 and opened on 19-01-2011. Within one hour, DHJ approved the Rate Contract No: DHS/J/1442-44 dated 19-01-2011 without any change or negotiations. Though the Rate Contract was approved within one hour, 11 days were spent in holding "secret dealings" with the suppliers and officials associated with the process. Interestingly, one of the conditions in the supply orders made it incumbent upon the firms to give a written undertaking that "no middleman commission has been paid in between".

In this particular case, middlemen and the apparently invisible top men have enjoyed a field day. As established by VOJ, the level of confidence has been so high that only one person has collected all the payment cheques and deposited the same with different banks. Hefty 'commissions' went to the men at the helm of affairs and their relatives and cronies. Under pressure from certain quarters, VOJ has not yet touched the main underhand fixer, Ashok Sharma alias Bitta S/o Gyan Chand, who is unfazed by the investigation and has been operating his pharmaceutical business in Jammu.

Subsequently, DHJ's supply order No: DHS/J/1668 dated 02-02-2011 went to M/S Hindustan Antibiotic Chandigarh, supply order No: DHS/J/1674-80 dated 02-02-2011 to M/S Karnataka Antibiotic & Pharmaceuticals Ltd, supply order No: DHS/J/1681-87 dated 02-02-2011 to M/S Bengal Chemical & Pharmaceuticals Ltd and supply order No: DHS/J/1688-94 dated 02-02-2011 to M/S Rajasthan Drugs & Pharmaceuticals Ltd. As the allotted rates were hiked by over 100%, quantities doubled when supplies of Kashmir division were clubbed with those of Jammu division.

Comptroller of Stores (Health) Jammu received the supplies from Hindustan Antibiotics on 17-04-2011, from Rajasthan Drugs on 18-04-2011, from Karnataka Antibiotics on 25-04-2011 and from Bengal Chemicals on 12-05-2011. Supplies made by the first three firms were entered into the stock register on 27-04-2011 and those of the fourth one on 25-05-2011. The supplies have been quickly shown to have further gone to the health centers.

In criminal violation of the guidelines of the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, officials of Sham Lal Sharma's departments actually purchased the spurious and sub standard drugs manufactured by dubiously operating firms and only packaged by the CPSEs in their labeled drug kits. This part, according to well-placed authoritative sources, has been fairly investigated by VOJ and the crime has been established.

However, for reasons not known to anybody, VOJ has not till date bothered to send the samples for necessary quality and standard check to FSLs. Consequently, these supplies are being consumed by thousands of people in Jammu, including sick newborn babies, at grave risk of life.

Surprisingly, even the Commissioner-Secretary Health and Medical Education, Ghulam Ahmad Pir---otherwise known for his competence and integrity--- has also shut his eyes to this brazen loot in NRHM and circulation of substandard drugs manufactured by unknown and unregistered firms. The substandard supplies have already endangered thousands of human lives in the State. Government of India's guidelines regarding Purchase Preference Policy clearly mention that "items should be manufactured by the firms" getting the benefit of the policy. In this case of supplies to J&K, CPSEs have manufactured just few of the drugs and packaged the kits with the spurious drugs manufactured by dubiously operating private firms.

Notwithstanding the 'lukewarm response' of the Srinagar-based Purchasing Committee, Ministry of Health managed to set the process rolling first through then retiring DHK Dr Amin Wani and later through the new handpicked incharge DHK, Dr Saleem-ur-Rehman. Even as SVO, allegedly under pressure from an influential political coterie, has excluded most of the key accused, including Directors of Health Services in Kashmir and Mission Director NRHM, sources insist that the supplies for Kashmir division too were procured from the same CPSEs. There too, cheques of various payments of all the four CPSEs have been handed over to just one middleman, who has been identified in the VOJ investigation in Jammu as Anil Lahoti and booked by name in FIR No: 19 of 2011 dated 16-09-2011.

[To be continued….]



J&K gets bridge factory, Institute for Tunnel & Bridge Engineering
Trivedi predicts delay in Kashmir rail
link due to less funding
Train to reach Katra, Banihal in upcoming financial year
Udhampur-Rohila Express converted into tri-weekly

By Sanjeev Pargal

JAMMU, Mar 14: Railways Minister Dinesh Trivedi said today that prestigious rail project to Kashmir valley was likely to be delayed for want of adequate funding as he pointed out that Railways was passing through financial crunch and a very tough period. However, he announced electrification of Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla rail line in the 12th five year plan, which was going to start from April 1 this year.

Mr Trivedi also sanctioned a bridge factory and an Institute for Tunnel and Bridge Engineering for Jammu and Kashmir. Though no new train was announced for Jammu or Udhampur, the Railways Minister said that frequency of Delhi Sarai Rohilla Express, a weekly train between Udhampur-Jammu-Rohilla has been upgraded to thrice a week.

In his budget speech in Lok Sabha today, a copy of which has been accessed by the Excelsior, Dinesh Trivedi announced that an Institute for Tunnel and Bridge Engineering would be set up at Jammu. "A bridge factory would come up in Jammu and Kashmir’’, he said.

Mr Trivedi said Udhampur-Katra and Qazigund-Banihal new railway line projects have been targeted for completion during 2012-13. Rail line to Katra had been hanging in balance for past quite sometime despite several years of completion of Jammu-Udhampur rail project. However, Udhampur-Katra rail line was now projected to be completed by December this year.

The Railways Minister announced that Qazigund-Banihal rail section would also be completed during upcoming financial year of 2012-13. He said adequate funds have been released for completion of Udhampur-Katra and Qazigund-Banihal rail sections.

He announced that weekly Delhi Sarai Rohilla-Udhampur AC Express has been converted into tri-weekly (thrice a day) via Ambala and Jalandhar. Other than increasing frequency of Sarai Rohilla AC Express, the Railways Minister didn’t propose any new train to Jammu or Udhampur.

In another significant decision, Mr Trivedi said two new line projects pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir have been sent to Planning Commission for appraisal. The two projects including Bilaspur to Leh (via Kullu and Manali) and Udhampur-Katra-Doda-Bhaderwah and Doda-Kishtwar figured in the list of a total of 84 new line projects sent to the Planning Commission.

"The budgetary support to Railways has been pegged at a modest level of ` 24,000 crore as against projected requirement of ` 45,000 crore. The national railway project of Kashmir including Udhampur-Baramulla rail line had to be funded out of this amount. This project along with projects of North East region alone required Rs 4000 crore for the current financial year and may get delayed for want of adequate funding’’, Mr Trivedi said.

The Udhampur-Baramulla railway line, the prestigious railway project, which would link Kashmir with rest of the country by rail and create an alternate link after Jammu-Srinagar National Highway, was earlier targeted to be completed in 2017. However, with the Railways Minister’s statement in the budget voicing financial constraints for the project, it could be delayed beyond 2017 as Mr Trivedi himself admitting that the projects may get delayed for want of adequate funding.

"With lower budgetary support, the deployment of capital would be lower to that extent. I am sure realizing the benefits of safety and modernization, the Government will enhanced the allocation of general budgetary support to Railways next year’’, he said.

Complimenting the Indian Railways for the great achievement of completing 11 kilometers long tunnel through Pir Panjal mountain range, Mr Trivedi said it would provide connectivity to the Kashmir valley when Udhampur-Baramulla rail project was commissioned.

"This will be the longest transportation tunnel’’, he said and devoted a couplet in favour of valour Railways personnel for completing the tunnel, which read as: "Fauladi Hain Seenay Apne, Fauladi Hain Baahein, Hum Chahein To Paida Kar Dein Chatanon Mein Rahein’’.

The Railways Minister proposed electrification of Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla railway line during 12th five year plan, which was starting from upcoming financial year of 2012-13.

He proposed electrification of a total of 6500 kilometers rail track during 12th plan period. In the 11th five year plan, which was ending on March 31, 2012, he said 4500 kilometers rail track would be electrified.

Without mentioning the name of China, which has been upgrading railway network along Jammu and Kashmir border in Ladakh besides other States of the country, which shared borders with the neighbouring country, Mr Trivedi said: "the national concern of safeguarding our borders also required to be adequately addressed. The geo-political situation on borders arising out of building of state-of-art road and rail network by neighbouring countries required a matching response.

"The Railways must remain in a state of preparedness to move men and machinery to border areas. It is, therefore, necessary to undertake such projects on priority and ensure adequate Government funding’’.

He said there was also an emergent need to connect remote and backward areas through socially desirable rail connectivity scheme to foster growth.

"Besides, there are projects of national importance in Kashmir and North East, which were crucial to inclusive growth. The Pradhan Mantri Rail Vikas Yojana as conceptualized by my leader Mamata Banerjee with the blessings of the Prime Minister is under formulation. The additional funding assistance required has been assessed at Rs 5 lakh crore under the PMRVY from the Government’’, Mr Trivedi said.


Mamata tells PM to sack Trivedi

KOLKATA, Mar 14: On a day of dramatic developments, TMC tonight sought the removal of its seniormost nominee in the Union Cabinet Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi hours after he proposed a hike in railway passenger fares, plunging the UPA Government in an unusual political crisis.

Angered by Trivedi’s proposal contained in the Railway Budget which he presented to Parliament earlier in the day, mercurial TMC boss and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wrote to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh late in the night seeking removal of Trivedi and his replacement by Mukul Roy, currently Minister of State for Shipping who had earlier served in the Railway Ministry.

"Yes, I have written to the Prime Minister seeking his replacement with Mukul Roy, another Union Minister," Banerjee told reporters.

Mamata’s decision created an unprecedented situation in the country’s Parliamentary history when a Minister is sought to be removed even before the budget presented by him has been discussed in Parliament. In addition, it puts Singh in a piquant situation, which is also unprecedented.

The Government was thus faced with a war within which could have serious consequences on its stability.

Should Singh not follow Mamata’s dictat, TMC, which is the second largest constituent with 19 MPs in Lok Sabha, may very likely pull out of the Government which will increase its dependence on outside supporters like Samajwadi Party and BSP.

Mamata’s brinkmanship also presents the Prime Minister with another acute embarrassment since he had praised Trivedi’s budget earlier as "forward-looking".

There are deep concerns within the UPA about Mamata’s behaviour which comes two days before the General Budget is to be presented by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Friday.

It is very likely that she may find fault with some of the proposals in the General Budget and create further trouble for the Government. (PTI)

Speaker seeks objections in writing
Baig contests privilege motion against Mehbooba, others

Excelsior Correspondent

JAMMU, Mar 14: Former Deputy Chief Minister and PDP leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig today contested validity of privilege motion moved against senior leaders of his party including Mehbooba Mufti and other MLAs by the ruling party, the National Conference members, in the Legislative Assembly yesterday saying the PDP hadn’t submitted any documents in the House.

As the House began its proceedings for the day, Mr Baig, who had served as Finance, Planning and Law & Parliamentary Affairs Minister in previous PDP-Congress coalition Government, described the privilege motion against the PDP MLAs as ``groundless and baseless’’ and urged Speaker Mohammad Akbar Lone to outrightly reject it.

Mr Baig, who was allowed to speak by Mr Lone before start of the Question Hour, referred to the privilege notices received by the PDP members. He said it has been mentioned in the privilege motion notices that six PDP MLAs have presented documents in the Assembly, which "misled the House’’.

"We want to know when actually we presented the documents’’, the PDP leader said maintaining that the PDP had asked for a discussion in the House on Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association (JKCA) scam which the Speaker didn’t allow.

"We couldn’t present any documents as discussion was not allowed in the House. As such, the charges mentioned in the privilege motion were groundless and baseless, which deserved to be rejected by the Speaker on the ground that no documents mentioned in the privilege motion notices had been presented in the House’’, Mr Baig said.

The Speaker asked Mr Baig to give comments in writing in response to the privilege notices issued to the PDP MLAs. He said if the claim of Mr Baig was proved correct the privilege motion would be rejected and, if not, he would act accordingly under the rules.

Worthwhile to mention here that National Conference MLAs including Choudhary Mohammad Ramzan, former Minister, Saifullah Mir, Nazir Ahmed Gurezi and Sajjad Ahmed Kitchloo and Independent MLA Tsetan Namgayal had moved privilege motion against PDP Legislature Party leader Mehbooba Mufti and other MLAs including Abdul Gaffar Sofi, Abdul Haq Khan, Syed Bashir, Peer Mansoor Shah and Javed Hussain Mir under Rules 238 and 239 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business.

The NC MLAs has charged the PDP members with leveling ``baseless and unfortunate allegations’’ with the ``intentions to mislead the House and deceive its members’’, which resulted in breach of privilege.

The NC members had already pointed out yesterday that all allegations leveled by the PDP in the House against Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy, National Conference president and JKCA head, Dr Farooq Abdullah should be expunged from the proceedings as Dr Abdullah was not a member of the House and couldn’t defend himself. The Speaker had expunged the remarks against Farooq.

Independent MLA from Langate Engineer Abdul Rashid, like yesterday, was again on his feet today regretting that the Government has failed to pay ` 2 lakh worth compensation to Kunan Poshpora rape victims of 1990.

"The rape victims didn’t get anything. None married them. Whether the Government will apologise for the incident? Whether any direction will be issued for payment of relief to the victims’’? Mr Rashid asked.

NC’s three time MLA from Kupwara, Saifullah Mir asked Mr Rashid not to highlight the incident of Kunan Poshpora in the House repeatedly.

"Kunan Poshpora falls in my constituency. Don’t defame the people again and again. Don’t politicize the issue’’, Mr Mir said, addressing Mr Rashid as both had heated exchanges on the issue. Rashid continued shouting from his seat for sometime.

Congress MLA from Banihal, Vakar Rasool also joined the issue saying Engineer Rashid always wasted time of the House by creating trouble. He demanded that he should be removed from the House.

Speaking to media persons outside the Assembly, PDP Legislature Party leader Mehbooba Mufti alleged that since a top man of the National Conference was involved in bungling/embezzlement in the JKCA they wanted to bulldoze the voice of the opposition party by bringing in privilege motion against the party members.

"There has been enough proof that the NC leader was involved in the scam. The ruling party wanted to silence the voice of the opposition party’’, she said.

Referring to the privilege motion, Mehbooba said the documents were only waved in the House. "How the Speaker saw the documents when we didn’t hand over the papers to him’’? she asked.

Ms Mufti claimed that records of bank and JKCA were enough to probe corruption and bungling in the Association.

NC leader Saifullah Mir told the reporters that the party has moved privilege motion against the PDP MLAs including Ms Mufti as the opposition party was trying to defame the National Conference president by leveling "baseless allegations’’ against him.

| home | state | national | business| editorial | advertisement | sports | photogallery |
international | weather | mailbag | suggestions | search | subscribe |