State of despair

Ravikiran DeshmukhIt would take less than a minute to gauge the present political scenario in the state and take measure of the majority of problems plaguing us. As three of its former chief ministers — late Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushilkumar Shinde and Ashok Chavan — face allegations over their involvement in the Adarsh housing society scam, former deputy CM Ajit Pawar has faced criticism over his alleged role in the irrigation scam, a bunch of ministers — Chhagan Bhujbal, Sunil Tatkare, Rajendra Darda, Gulabrao Deokar — and a few legislators including Nitin Gadkari — who heads BJP — and Shiv Sena MLA Suresh Jain are also in trouble over corruption issues, the picture looks rather bleak for Maharashtra.

Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan
Chief Minister Prithviraj ChavanĀ 

As if this was not enough, over 20 engineers from the state PWD are set to join the league of politicians for their alleged complicity in a Rs 113-crore scam unearthed recently. What’s more, certain allegations have been made against the tribal development department for purchases in recent time. Then a Supreme Court panel unearthed widespread irregularities in the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) meant for providing food to malnourished children in the state.

The state — once famed as the homeland of revolutionaries who participated in the freedom struggle, social reformists, litterateurs, artists, captains of industry and thriving entrepreneurs — now seems well past its glory days. A turnaround appears improbable with a dearth of capable leaders, and especially politicians who promoted art, culture and development. Sadly, all this is coming to the fore in the birth centenary year of late YB Chavan — the former CM known for his vision.

The report tabled in Supreme Court pertaining to supply of supplementary food to malnourished children has stated that a large chunk of money has gone into the hands of private food contractors violating an apex court order in 2004. This is difficult for a common man to digest, who believes there is no bigger crime than stealing something from the plates of poor, hapless kids, who happen to be the future of the country.

Apart from exposing the PWD scam recently, and deaths of malnourished children along with huge expensive purchases meant for anganwadis last year, a few days ago MiD DAY revealed a report on the state of children’s homes in Maharashtra, based on a study conducted by the commission for protection of child rights. The report recommends immediate closure of 389 such homes from five districts of the state. Had the state government acted swiftly on this, few would have complained. But instead, authorities decided to appoint close to 100 teams of officials to conduct visits to the homes and report on them.

What the people in power have in mind is anybody’s guess. Where’s the need for more reports, when there’s one tendered by the commission for protection of child rights — a quasi-judicial body.

Recall any scam and you’ll find indubitable signs of netas being involved. Whosoever from Mantralaya defends himself saying he was not aware what his subordinates were doing, or it was difficult to supervise the goings-on in the allied wings of the department, is not fit to be a part of governance.

Just one example will suffices to explicate the rot. In April last year, a section officer from women and child development department moved a proposal for addition of Rs 1 to the basic cost of supply of hot meals made by women’s self-help groups to anganwadi centres. The suggestion was later endorsed by the concerned deputy secretary and was sent for the approval from the principal secretary of the department.

Surprisingly, a state cabinet meeting chaired by CM Prithviraj Chavan approved Rs 1 hike not only for the hot meal supply but also for supplementary food. It has been alleged that the phrasing for a hike in rates of supplementary food were later inserted (handwritten) into the particular file. The unwarranted hike offered a benefit of approximately Rs 500 crore to the suppliers. But should anyone be surprised?

— The writer is Political Editor, MiD DAY

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