Report in SC slams states for ‘politician-contractor nexus’

A report submitted in the Supreme Court on Friday indicted the Maharashtra government and Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan over a "close nexus between politicians, contractors and bureaucrats," facilitating extensive wrongdoings in supply of supplementary nutrition to children through the Central government-sponsored Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS).

The report, prepared by the principal adviser to SC-appointed Commissioner Biraj Patnaik, also highlighted that in Uttar Pradesh, supply of supplementary nutrition has been contracted out with private companies like 'Great Value Foods', which is promoted by prominent liquor baron Ponty Chadha. This, the report averred, was in "in complete violation of the Supreme Court order". It wondered why the company continues to be engaged even though the NHRC came out with an adverse report against it on the issue.

A similar situation was found in states like Karnataka and Meghalaya. In Meghalaya, it was found that a company operating out of Noida in UP, namely Continental Milkose (India) Ltd, "provides supplementary nutrition for ICDS" in the state.

The report, submitted before a Bench led by Justice T S Thakur in connection with a PIL by 'People's Union for Civil Liberties', has lamented that many states were breaching the SC orders to keep private contractors at bay since they might have commercial interests in supply of nutrition to children.

The court had favoured women's self-help groups, mahila mandals and gram panchayats for this task to ensure better quality of food and overall development of villages.

The report's findings come at a time when the National Family Health Survey-3 has found that nearly 5,000 children die in India everyday due to preventable causes like malnutrition.

Adducing its "preliminary" findings on the state of affairs at Maharashtra, the report read that the facts, in pursuant to investigations, established linkages between private contractors and the women's self-help groups supplying nutritional products in anganwadis.

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