Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): A massive scam of the Madhya Pradesh government’s nutrition programme for children has been unearthed, at the risk of leaving them malnourished and costing taxpayers crores of rupees, says the state’s own auditor.
According to a confidential 36-page report by the MP Accountant General, irregularities in the identification of beneficiaries, production, distribution and quality control of the ambitious free food scheme for schoolchildren have been found.
When investigated the Take Home Ration (THR) scheme for 2021, over 24 percent of the beneficiaries included 34.69 lakh children aged between 6 months to 3 years, 14.25 lakh pregnant women and lactating mothers and 0.64 lakhs Out Of School Adolescent Girls or OOSAGs aged between 11-14 years.
Fake Transport Used
Further investigation revealed that the rations transport trucks mentioned in the reports turned out allegedly to be motorcycles.
The scale of the scam was such that the trucks that six manufacturing plants or firms claimed to have used to have transported 1,125.64 metric tons of rations costing ₹ 6.94 crores, were found registered as motorcycles, cars, autos and tankers upon verification from the transport department records.
During the audit, it was found that at 49 Anganwadi centres in eight districts, only three out-of-school girls were registered. However, under the same 49 Aanganwadi centres, the WCD department listed 63,748 girls and claimed to have helped 29,104 of them during 2018-21.
This indicates the extent of data manipulation, leading to the falsified distribution of rations worth ₹ 110.83 crores.
Over 30 lakh fake beneficiaries:
Despite being asked by the central and state governments to complete a survey for the identification of out of schoolgirls eligible for rations by April 2018, the Women and Child Development (WCD) Department did not manage to finish it till February 2021.
While the School Education Department had estimated the number of out-of-school girls at 9,000 in 2018-19, the WCD Department, without conducting any baseline survey, estimated their number at 36.08 lakh.
The Women and Child Development Department have been under the supervision of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan himself since the resignation of BJP leader Imarti Devi in 2020 following a defeat in by-elections.
The THR programme is headed and supervised by the Additional Chief Secretary of the department. He is assisted by a state-level director, 10 joint directors, 52 district programme officers and 453 Child Development Project Officers CDPOs.