A day after Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma termed the seizure of FCI rice bags in Assam for “NFSA & Covid19 relief” for the state as “incorrect”, TUR reiterated “gross irregularity” in the implementation of the SNP programme of ICDS in the state.
According to a news report, Assam Police recently seized one lakh bags of rice of Food Corporation of India (FCI), from a private godown in Kamrup Rural district as the essential commodity was being allegedly readied for sale.
The report said the rice bags were seized during a joint operation conducted by the Assam Police and the Kamrup (Rural) district administration.
It was reported that the rice bags were meant for the Meghalaya unit of FCI.
But denying the allegation, Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma in a tweet on Tuesday wrote: “The allegations that the seized rice in a factory in Assam meant for NFSA & Covid Relief for Meghalaya is incorrect.”
“The said consignment of rice is not a part of the NFSA or of Covid Relief from GoI. Our stocks have been received in advance for the entire month of June. Seized rice sourced from FCI was allotted to the approved company and it is their responsibility to provide the Govt with the finished products.”
“Nevertheless, we have asked the company to give clarification on the matter,” the CM tweeted, adding, “Govt ensures that the company supplies quality tested and certified finished food products on a regular basis to the State and ensure its supply is uninterrupted.”
Referring to the seizure of 1 lakh bags of rice from Assam, Thma U Rangli Juki (TUR) in a statement on Wednesday said, “Contrary to what the CM claims, the Supreme Court orders since 2004 and the latest being in 2019 emphasise on the need to decentralize the scheme and work with women’s groups and SHGs and local communities that can ensure culturally appropriate and locally available foods for the ICDS programme”.
TUR alleged that the chief minister was “wilfully misleading the public” regarding “the 2014 notification of the ministry of women and child development and insisting that only entities that can ensure quality food that are micronutrient fortified and energy dense can be engaged”.
The organisation said: “This is an outright lie as the NFSA 2013 does not insist on fortified food but on nutritious food and the Supreme Court pointed out that the idea of fortification is often used to subvert the scheme and provide a backdoor entry to manufacturers and contractors who eye the central government’s 5000 crore yearly budget for this programme.”
Stating that Meghalaya’s budget for the feeding component of ICDS for 2020-21 is Rs 60,37,02,000, TUR questioned “why should this be cornered by the tainted company Continental Milkose”.
The intention of the ICDS is to provide nutritious food and TUR said the local groups can meet this by involving local producers, fruit and vegetable farmers, poultry farmers and others.
The two components of the SNP of the ICDS is “take home rations as well as hot cooked meals”.
TUR alleged that the food packages supplied by Continental Milkose did not meet the required standards of the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad.
“Samples taken from random samples across Meghlaya had revealed that vitamin A was not detectable and calorie value was 40% less than what was claimed among other gross deficiencies in this product,” TUR alleged.
“The SNP ICDS implementation has and is a scam in Meghalaya where the outcomes from its implementation has been dismal where MMR and IMR continues to be one of the highest in the region,” TUR further alleged.
TUR said “the chief minister rather than trying to listen to the grievances of the people and understanding the ground reality of this systemic corruption in the programme” is “bending over backwards to defend Continental Milkose of one Deepak Agrawal”.
TUR has sought a stop to the alleged “contractor-bureaucrat-politician nexus of promoting the contractor lobby”.
“Civil society groups, local Dorbars should conduct social audits and make public the ground reality of this scheme in the interest of our children and women,” TUR added.