Today’s Paper » NATIONAL » KARNATAKA
Bangalore, June 9, 2012
Agreement with Christy Friedgram cancelled
The controversial agreement between the Women and Child Welfare Department and Christy Friedgram Industry on supply of supplementary nutrition food to anganwadis has finally been cancelled in the light of “several instances of lapses”.
The Government Order (GO) of May 31 admits that there had been serious flaws in the execution of the agreement by the company, ranging from deviously retaining control over Mahila Supplementary Nutrition Production and Training Centres to flouting stipulated standards in maintaining quality of food supplied to anganwadis under the Integrated Child Development Scheme.
While the department officials previously maintained that company was not hired as a contractor for food supply but only as a capacity builder, the Government Order makes it clear that it (the company) had indeed been indirectly working as contractor.
As per the April 2009 agreement, the company was to set up mahila training centres and train the staff to work completely independently before May 2012. These centres were to produce nutritional food, package and supply it to anganwadis for feeding children, pregnant women and lactating mothers.
“Even after three years, the mahila training centres are not capable of working independently,” says the Government Order.
The members of these centres are neither technically nor administratively competent, according to the Government Order.
More importantly, it admits that the company continued to have control over the mahila training centres even though the company was only meant to hand-hold them.
It says that the project facilitators were employees “in the pay of the company” and the raw material too continued to be supplied by the company.
“Rather than procure material from the local market, items such as sambar powder, ragi malt and high protein mix were supplied from units set up by the company in Nelamangala, Davangere and Gulbarga,” the Government Order says and adds that the setting up of these units was not brought to the attention of the department.
The Government Order says that the food supplied by the company did not have stipulated amount of protein and calories and used colours that were not permitted.
An earlier inspection had found that there was no hygiene maintained and food contained ‘coliform bacteria’. Contrary to the terms of the agreement, the food quality and infrastructure was not certified by a competent authority.
Several of the mahila training centres have been running under loss, which again is the responsibility of the capacity builder, and the government has been giving them loans of Rs. 10 lakh each at an interest rate of four per cent, in an attempt to help them revive.
Child rights and civil society organisations have for long been campaigning against the company being involved in the supply of food to anganwadis, pointing to several loopholes now admitted in the Government Order. Cases of child malnutrition in the State had further fuelled this controversy.
Three officials, the former Director of the Department Shamla Iqbal, Deputy Director Usha Patwari and Assistant Director Muniraju, are being investigated by the Lokayukta in connection with the scam.
The company was supplying supplementary nutrition food to anganwadis
Under the agreement, it was to have set up mahila training centres