The Bombay High Court on Monday issued notice to the State Government to answer allegations made out in MiD DAY’s report on how crores of rupees meant for the child welfare budget were spent on toys and utensils. The court had taken suo-motu cognizance of the report prior to issuing notice. The Ministry of Women and Child Development and the Public Health Department have filed their affidavit, clarifying that the money was spent to prevent the fund allotted to them from lapsing.
Government pleaders sought time to file an additional affidavit detailing the steps taken to prevent maternal deaths. Speaking to MiD DAY, advocate Gayatri Singh, whom the court appointed as amicus curae in the case, said, “The department has not denied the allegations made out in the report. They have justified the expenditure, as the money allotted would have lapsed. About Rs 200 crore was spent on things like banners and carpets.”
The division bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and KK Tated has now asked a senior-level secretary to the government to remain present on the next date of hearing, to answer allegations made in the report.
MiD DAY had reported that the Women and Child Development Ministry had spent over Rs 600 crore on sundry items such as banners, carpets and toys, all while more than 450 children died of malnutrition-related diseases in Nashik alone. More than a lakh of the children in Nashik are malnourished, with over 45,000 in Vidharbha.
For instance, it spent Rs 2.54 crore to purchase registers to record details of the growth of children at Aanganwadis. They also spent Rs 13,801 each for a set of four steel utensils consisting of a bucket, mug, jug and water drum. About a crore was spent on ‘Illustrated message books, and Rs 42.67 lakh each for three flats for Aanganwadis in Pimpri-Chinchwad, Pune.