Friday, September, 29,2023

Internal squabble puts brakes on govt’s flagship food packet scheme!

Jaipur: Gehlot government’s flagship scheme - Annapurna Food Packet - has got embroiled in a controversy and that is why an immense delay is being caused in its enforcement. Two months have already passed and owing to the difficulties that have arisen, it is expected that two more months will pass before the scheme is implemented.

Under this scheme, free food packets will be distributed to 1.06 crore families covered under the National Food Security Act. Supplying food packets to beneficiaries at cost of Rs 370 per packet could result in a monthly expenditure of about Rs 392 crore i.e. Rs 4,700 crore per annum.

In the beginning, the CM had made Food and Civil Supply department, under minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas, the nodal department for this scheme. But later, the finance department made changes and handed the responsibility to Cooperative department. Reportedly, minister Khachariyawas is not too happy with this change and he has asserted a ‘constitutional objection’ to it. He claims that when in the state budget in the assembly, this scheme has been passed under the Food department, then how can the Finance department, without the approval of the assembly, bring about such changes at its own level? This controversy has not been solved yet.

On the other hand, the Cooperative Department has handed the purchase responsibility of food packets to its own institution - CONFED. Registrar, Cooperatives - Meghraj Singh Ratnu - is its Chairman. Meanwhile, another controversy is going on between CONFED and Finance Department. The tender document for food packets that CONFED prepared, having spent days in its preparation, was returned by the Finance Department with a two page long objection note. Now an entirely new tender document has been prepared and this has caused the delay of two months.

Third controversy is between Cooperative Minister Udaya Lal Anjana and Principal Secretary Cooperatives Sreya Guha. According to the process, what ever action CONFED takes and decides, it will be okayed by Sreya Guha, as the Principal Secretary of Cooperative department (parent department).

The problem is that CONFED Chairman and Registrar Cooperatives is the same person - Meghraj Ratnu. This means that as Chairman, the file that Meghraj Ratnu prepares, that will be examined at the level of government by Ratnu himself in his capacity at Registrar and it will be him who approves of it. This is not right according to the administrative point of view since there is conflict of interest. Word is that CONFED is working under the guidance of the minister in the matter related to food packets. The FA and GM there are also being guided by the ‘higher ups’.

Perhaps Sreya Guha felt that this 4700 crore rupees worth scheme’s transparency and unbiasness could be brought under suspicion due to conflict of interest and therefore, through a signed order, Sreya Guha directed FA Vachaspati Tripathi of RAJFED, whose Guha is Chairman, to assist the Registrar and examine the files.

Minister Udaylal Anjana has not sought answer from Sreya Guha asking her how did she issue the order without the minister’s approval? How can the FA of RAJFED interfere in the department’s work? Word is that the minister is reportedly unsatisfied with Sreya Guha’s explanation and he has taken the matter to CM.

But amid all these controversies, the food packet scheme is facing the brunt and now the model code of conduct is also round the corner.

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