#India -2- child norm to Maternity Care, Nutritional Security Of Children #WTFnews #Coercion #illegal #health


Cap benefits, limit families, suggests panel

Call To Dilute Govt Commitments To Maternity Care, Nutritional Security Of Children Draws Fire

Nitin Sethi TNN , Jan 24, 2012

New Delhi: Should maternity benefits and nutritional support to children under government schemes be restricted to only the first two children to “encourage stabilization of population”? Raising a storm among activists, the parliamentary standing committee has recommended so while assessing the National Food Security Bill. The recommendation has been objected to by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights also (NCPCR).

The other recommendations of the standing committee diluting the existing commitments of the government to provide nutritional security to children, flowing out from various Supreme Court orders, has also drawn criticism from the civil society and the commission. In its report, the standing committee said: “The committee recommends that the maternity benefit of Rs 1,000 shall be admissible up to the birth of second child only to encourage stabilization of population.” It also recommended that pregnant women should be eligible for the maternity benefit of Rs 1,000 per month after three months into pregnancy and not for six months as is norm now.
Reacting strongly to the proposals, NCPCR said, “The commission is stunned to see that its submissions to the standing committee on critical issues of children’s food and nutritional security have not found place in the report.” It said, “The universal and unconditional maternal entitlements enabling exclusive breast-feeding to babies for the first six months of life that was provided for in the NFSB is now withdrawn. On the contrary, the committee imposed the two-child norm denying entitlements to the third born and higher order of babies to encourage stabilization of population.”
The standing committee report notes that the recommendation to use regulation of nutritional support for population stabilization was made by Congress MP Naveen Jindal.
The commission has criticized the recommendations, saying, “The committee has ignored the importance of exclusive breast-feeding of babies for the first six months of life which is the vital and indispensable factor for survival and growth of children. In would only perpetuate child mortality and malnutrition in the country. This is unjust and violates the fundamental right to equality.”
The Right to Food campaign, too, has criticized the recommendation denying the nutritional support to children, “It is now widely recognised that such disincentives do not contribute to population stabilisation and only violate the rights of women and children. India’s fertility rate has been steadily declining and anyway approaching the level of population stabilisation.” The campaign added, “It is shocking to learn that the committee obliterated legal guarantees to the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and anganwadis on grounds of programmatic and operational gaps in the scheme. This undermines the Supreme Court orders and the advise of hundreds of experts and campaigns that wrote to the Committee on the importance of universalising the ICDS services.”
Oddly, it was on the advice of the Union ministry for women and child development that the standing committee decided to keep ICDS out of the list of legal entitlements under the bill. The ministry told the committee, “The scheme is confronted with programmatic and operational gaps which would need to be addressed first.”

 

 

Demand for SIT probe into Centre’s child nutrition scheme


Down to Earth
Author(s): Richard Mahapatra
Date: Dec 4, 2012

Supreme Court commissioners report multi-crore scam involving private contractors and bureaucrats in food distribution under Integrated Child Development Scheme

imageRichard Mahapatra

Two commissioners of the Supreme Court in the right to food case have recommended setting up an independent Special Investigation Team, similar to the one for the 2G spectrum scam, to investigate corruption and quality in food procurement for the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS). Following a comprehensive investigation of the scheme in four states, the commissioners have reported a deep-rooted nexus among bureaucrats, politicians and private food contractors to siphon off funds meant for poor children and women.

In October 2004, the apex court prohibited involvement of private contractors in procurement of food for children and women under ICDS. It ordered that ICDS funds be spent on village communities and self-help groups (SHGs) for buying grains and preparing meals. On an average, this would have pumped in around Rs. 6,000 crore to local communities.

But states have been violating this order blatantly or have tweaked the tender systems for the past eight years to favour private contractors. What’s more, food supplied by contractors was found to be much below the prescribed nutrition level.

Under ICDS, anganwadis (centres for providing healthcare and nutrition to small children and mothers in rural areas) provide morning snacks and hot lunch to children between three and six years. Besides, nutrition mix is given to children between six months and three years, and to pregnant and lactating women. It covers 80 million children in the country under the age of six, and 18 million pregnant and breastfeeding mothers through 1.7 million anganwadis.

The commissioners have submitted a 100-odd pages report to the apex court on November 29 2012. This comes after thorough investigation by the commissioners in four states: Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat.

“It is now (time) for an independent Special Investigation Team to thoroughly probe this nexus and bring to book those who are responsible for stealing food for children of the poorest and most marginalised communities in the country,” recommends the report to the apex court. The report has mentioned how government officials and private contractors have entered into nexus to continue with the old system. The apex court is expected to give its verdict on the recommendations in the near future.

In the past eight years, the apex court gave at least 12 directions to states on violation of its 2004 order. In many cases the court has specifically ordered states like Gujarat to hand over the food contracts to local communities and SHGs.

But as the report finds, states have either outrightly defied this order to tweak the system in such a way that private contractors get to do the same in the guise of SHGs or local community groups. The Central government spends close to Rs 10,000 crore every year on food supply under ICDS.

Ponty finger in this pie

In UP, the state government continues to outsource food supply to private companies, including the one headed by the Gurdeep Singh (Ponty) Chadha, who was killed recently in his Delhi farmhouse along with his brother in a suspected incident of fratricide. His company was severely indicted by the National Human Rights Commission last year for serious malpractices in food supply (Read the report here). On September 24, the government floated a new tender for supply of food under the ICDS. The tender notice does mention SHGs as the preferred agency but has put the condition of Rs 25 crore/year turnover. No local community group can meet this condition, thus making way for entry of private companies. “There has been dissatisfaction about this eligibility criterion for prospective bidders, alleging exclusion of mahila mandals (women cooperatives), SHGs and village committees by setting the financial requirements too high,” says the report.

In Maharashtra, too, the commissioners found that the government obeyed the court order on decentralising the procurement. But it put tough conditions and terms that only private companies could meet. In Gujarat, the state government never took any initiative to implement the court order.

In another interesting finding, the commissioners have found private contractors coming together to monopolise contracts under ICDS, at least in the four states they studied. “Some private contractors have been successful in establishing a monopoly through several states for supply of take home rations for supplementary nutrition provision under the ICDS either through direct contract with the state government or under another cloak,” finds the report.

A massive expenditure of Rs 1,83,778 crore in the 12th Plan to effectively implement ICDS in “Mission Mode”. Would it end as another opportunity for private contractors to amass a fortune at the cost of poor children and mothers needing nutritional care?

 

The Full Ponty- ICDS and Corruption in India


The full Ponty
Samar Halarnkar, Hindustan Times
November 07, 2012
High-school dropout Gurdeep Singh Chadha, or “Ponty” as his friends call him, has achieved the Indian dream. A portly, religious Punjabi with a salt-and-pepper beard, Chadha (52) has a farmhouse in Delhi’s power belt, Chattarpur; a mansion in Dubai; and sundry other homes and cars. Chadha’s  business empire, the Wave Group, is conservatively valued at Rs. 6,000 crore. It encompasses distilleries, multiplexes (Wave cinemas), sugar and paper mills, real estate, poultry and films (he produced the 2005 Sunny Deol starrer Jo Bole So Nihaal). Chadha’s brothers, sons and a grandson run parts of the empire, but it is Ponty’s networking skills and acumen that keeps them ahead.In 2005, during the reign of chief minister Mulayam Singh in Uttar Pradesh (UP), Chadha won statewide contracts to supply ready to eat food for poor, underweight or otherwise malnourished children under the world’s largest child-health programmes, the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS). Many thought – wrongly – that Chadha’s interests would suffer when Singh’s rival, Mayawati, later won the state. Chadha’s company, Great Value Foods, retained the nutrition contracts, and in 2009, he gained an unprecedented monopoly over the state’s wholesale liquor trade.

Nothing has come of recent moves against Chadha, such as the income-tax department raids in February this year on 25 of his properties in Delhi and UP. Two days ago, the UP Lokayukta was asked to investigate his 2010 and 2011 acquisition of four State-owned sugar mills for roughly – according to the government auditor’s report – a tenth of their value. I had no luck reaching Chadha for comment.

Chadha’s story is unexceptional in a country known for crony capitalism, except that his dominion over the child-nutrition programme does not help a state that is home to every sixth malnourished child in India. Eight million women and 30 million children in UP depend on the ICDS for basic nutrition.

“The (food) is produced in poor hygienic conditions…does not seem to contain the ingredients claimed and the weaning food may not be suitable for babies,” says a report of the National Human Rights Commission, after investigating one of Chadha’s factories and the government crèches in Gorakhpur district during March and April, 2011. Referring to a centralised, poorly supervised nutrition programme, the report says, “63% of the food and funds is misappropriated.”

The contracts awarded to Chadha’s Great Value Foods are also symptomatic of a larger, rarely discussed issue: how politicians, officials and private companies often conspire to fix ICDS contracts, which, according to a 2004 Supreme Court judgement, should be handed only to local self-help groups, women’s groups, or mahila mandals, and village communities. Chadha’s contracts are “a complete violation of the Supreme Court orders“, says a letter sent last month to the Supreme Court Commissioners – who have monitored litigation related to food for India’s poor since 2003 – by their principal adviser Biraj Patnaik.

ICDS contracts are worth more than R8,000 crore, the financing split between central and state governments. In some states, local cooking and supply has had significant impact; in others it has become the subject of scams.

“Despite seven years having past since the Hon’ble Supreme Court banning contractors from the ICDS…the politician-bureaucrat-contractor nexus has managed to violate the orders of this court with impunity,” says Patnaik’s report, which reveals how ingeniously the Congress-controlled Maharashtra government and contractors undermine laws. Similar fiddles were previously revealed in BJP-ruled Karnataka.

After the 2004 judgement, Maharashtra, like many states, continued giving nutrition contracts to the old contractors, arguing it needed time to make the changeover. Five years later, when the state supposedly switched to local groups, Patnaik’s investigations revealed that three mahila mandals had been awarded contracts for the state. The private companies leased by the mandals to produce take-home rations, he discovered, were owned by wives, daughters and sisters of the same mandals.

To be sure, over the last six years, Maharashtra has almost halved the incidence of malnutrition in children, reveals a provisional report released by the International Institute of Population Sciences. But that is largely because a host of government departments acted in concert against the diverse components of malnutrition, including promotion of breastfeeding, the use of toilets and improving healthcare. In vast swathes of the state, things are as bad as ever. Causality is hard to establish, but in Nashik, where 32% of children are stunted, or below normal height, the ration programme is being run by one of the mahila mandals investigated by Patnaik.

India’s progress against malnutrition is out of sync with its economic progress. More than half of children under three were undernourished in 2006, when the last such survey was conducted. That’s only a 6% fall since 1999.

Things can change only if the rot that Patnaik’s report hints at is eliminated. He recommends a special investigation team. Indeed, there is much that requires investigation, locally and nationally. For instance, Patnaik found one of the Maharashtra mandals had subcontracted take-home ration production to a Tamil Nadu company called Christy Fried Gram Industry, which after two years of pressure from the SC Commissioners was blacklisted this year by the Karnataka government for supplying substandard and possibly toxic food to crèches statewide.

Back in UP, two government tenders (issued in September 2012 and due to be opened this month) for micronutrient-rich powders meant for infants being weaned, or moving from breast milk to semi-solid foods, invite applications – for the first time – from mahila mandals, self-help groups and village communities. Prospective suppliers must deposit R45 crore as earnest money and should have manufactured and supplied, to any state, at least R25 crore worth of powdered weaning food over the last two financial years.

As I read the tender conditions, it’s obvious no grassroots group can fulfill such conditions. However, one company can: Chadha’s Great Value Foods.

Samar Halarnkar is a Bangalore-based journalist

The views expressed by the author are personal

 

#India-Maharashtra food scam: Private companies eat up Rs 1,000cr meant for poor


, TNN | Nov 3, 2012, 01.12AM IST

Maharashtra food scam: Private companies eat up Rs 1,000cr meant for poor
In Maharashtra, private firms floated fronts as ‘mahila mandals‘ and now control rations worth Rs 1,000 crore, the report said. It also specified violations in Karnataka, UP and Meghalaya.
NEW DELHI: Private companies have hijacked the government’s flagship scheme to provide food to poor children and their mothers, the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), with contractors in Maharashtra alone controlling Rs 1,000 crore worth of supplies in contravention of Supreme Court orders, a report of the SC commissioners office has said.The SC orders bar contractors from supplying rations under the scheme. It only permits village communities, self-help groups and mahila mandals to buy grains and prepare food for children.

The commissioners’ report, submitted to the court on Friday, warned that the contractor-corporate lobby had a firm grip over ICDS rations supply business, worth Rs 8,000 crore, in several states. It specifically referred to Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Meghalaya, besides Maharashtra.

Detailing Maharashtra’s case, the report said private companies had floated fronts in the names of ‘mahila mandals’ or women’s organizations to corner the lucrative Rs 1,000 crore annual supply of rations.

The ICDS is India’s primary social welfare scheme to tackle malnutrition and health problems in poor children below 6 years of age and their mothers. It is considered the backbone of government’s efforts to improve the dismal family health indices in India – some of the worst even among developing countries.

The commissioners recommended that an independent investigation be conducted under theapex court’s supervision to investigate the possible nexus “between politicians, bureaucrats and private contractors in the provisioning of rations to ICDS, leading to largescale corruption and leakages”.

The report, prepared by the principle advisor to the commissioners, said the Maharashtra chief minister had been made aware of the scam by the commissioners as well as the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights. They said the fact that the corrupt system continued unchecked showed the “level of influence” the contractors had over the “levers of power in Maharashtra”.

This report lays bare the modus operandi companies used to corner the lucrative contracts in Maharashtra. The state government first changed its rules in 2009 to allow not only community-based organizations but also ‘women’s institutions’ to bid for the supply – a loose enough term to permit any contractor, company or agency with women on board to bid for the contracts.

Only three of these ‘women’s institutions’ got contracts for the entire state’s ration supply which is worth over Rs 1,000 crore annually. None of these three mahila mandals – Venkateshwara Mahila Audhyogic Sahakari Sanstha, Mahalaxmi Mahila Grhaudyog & Balvikas Buddhesiya Audhyogic Sahakari Sanstha and Maharashtra Mahila Sahakari Grahudhyog Sanstha Limited — had any production capacity of their own.

The three mahila mandals each formed sub-committees with select members handling complete control of administration, finances and operations of the organizations. The sub-committees then gained legitimacy by directly contracting with the state government, securing bank guarantees as well as opening separate bank accounts.

The sub-committees went on to contract five companies to supply the rations. But the members on board these sub-committees were all relatives of the owners of the five companies.

In other words, the companies had formed shell agencies to bid for the contracts on the pretext of being community-based women’s organizations.

Venkateshwara formed two sub-committees. One sub-committee farmed out contract to Swapnil Agro Limited owned by Ulhas Pagariya. The sub-committee comprised Pagariya’s wife and two relatives. The second sub-committee gave a contract to Paras Agro Private Limited, with one Satishrao Munde as managing director. Munde’s wife and daughter comprised the sub-committee.

Similarly, Mahalaxmi formed three sub-committees giving out contracts to Indo Allied Protein Foods run by Rajan Shankar Jadhav, Sai Food and Sai Food Products owned by Pradip Auradkar and Sanjay Auradkar and Kota Dal Mill based in Rajasthan.

Maharashtra Mahila Sahkari, which is actually a company and not a society with Rama Agrawal as vice-chairman, gave the contract to Sagar Foods run by her father-in-law Prabhudayala Agarwal.

The principle advisor to the court commissioners, Biraj Patnaik, refused to comment when contacted.

His report said lab reports testing the quality of food grains supplied was also suspect as all three mahila mandals went to the same private lab but government testing found the food lacking. The report said media had earlier highlighted how the ration was of such bad quality that it was at times sold as cattle feed and many times, fungi and termites were found in them. A case on the matter is being heard in the high court as well.

The author added that the report should be seen as a preliminary inquiry and not a comprehensive indictment of the parties. They have asked for court directions for an independent authority carrying out an investigation. The apex court gave the state the opportunity to respond to the report and posted the next hearing for November 23.

 

VICTORY !!!-Agreement with Christy Friedgram cancelled #Goodnews


Bageshree S., Bangalore , The Hindu

Government Order  issued in the light of ‘several instances of lapses’

The Government Order says that the food supplied by the company did not have stipulated amount of protein and calories.— FILE PHOTO: M. Subash

The Government Order says that the food supplied by the company did not have stipulated amount of protein and calories.— FILE PHOTO: M. Subash

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.

Low quality

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

 

In Karnataka, only babus and cattle enjoy mid-day meals- children dying…….


Children are dying of malnutrition, but their supposed saviours are minting money from the ICDS scheme, reports Imran Khan in Tehelka

Food for thought 54,260 anganwadis serve mid-day meals in Karnataka

Photos: Sriram Vittalamuthy

A PROBE by the Karnataka Lokayukta into the supply of food to the Integrated Child Development Services has found that Department of Women and Child Development officials in connivance with the contractor, Christy Friedgram Industry, were siphoning off funds meant for the mid-day meal scheme. The revelation has come at a time when the state is witnessing close to two-three deaths every day due to malnutrition.

The mid-day meal scheme, which costs the state government Rs 600 crore per year, was meant to provide basic nutrition for children below the age of six. However, DWCD officials and CFI delivered sub-standard food after skimming off funds.

According to sources in the Lokayukta, DWCD Director Shyamala Iqbal used to receive Rs 20 lakh per month as bribe, while Deputy Director Usha Patwari and Assistant Director Muniraju used to get Rs 15 lakh per month from CFI for their tacit involvement. “All department officials, right from the taluk level, would collect money every month from the CFI office in Malleswaram, Bengaluru,” the sources say.

“During 2010, we received an anonymous letter detailing the racket, which was duly forwarded to the Lokayukta for investigation,” says Nina Nayak, chairperson of the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR). She submitted a report to the government following complaints by gram panchayats about the sub-standard food supplied by CFI. “We received letters from parents who complained of their children falling sick after consuming the food,” she says.

The ICDS is the largest programme for promotion of maternal and child health and nutrition not only in India but the whole world. The scheme was launched in 1975 in pursuance of the National Policy for Children. The beneficiaries are children below six years, pregnant and lactating women and women in the age group of 15-44 years. In Karnataka, there are around 54,260 anganwadis, with 33 lakh children entitled to free mid-day meals.

Earlier, the government-owned Karnataka State Agro Corn Products Ltd (KSACPL), which used to manufacture and supply energy foods to anganwadis since 1973, provided mid-day meals. “The KSACPL started making losses in 2001, after the DWCD handed over 50 percent of the energy food supply contract to CFI,” says H Subbaiah, the last managing director of the company. Due to insurmountable losses, the company was shut down last month.

Concerned over reports of fraud and tardy implementation of the ICDS scheme, the Supreme Court had issued a directive in October 2004 prohibiting the use of contractors in the supply of mid-day meals under the scheme.

“This is when CFI hit upon a novel plan to counter it,” says a middle-level DWCD official, who was shunted out later. “CFI entered into a five-year contract in 2007 with a budget of Rs 600 crore for building the capacities of self-help groups.” The company then set up the Mahila Supplementary Nutrition Production and Training Centres (MSNPTCs) in 139 of the 176 taluks.

An employee working in one of the MSNPTCs later wrote to the KSCPCR explaining the way these centres were being run. A copy of the letter, which is with TEHELKA, throws light on the way the DWCD looked the other way when CFI went about doing its business.

In Raichur district, 2,689 kids died due to acute malnutrition in April-August 2011, says official data

According to the letter, “Many of the training centres were not producing the required quantity of energy food. They were procuring ready-to-eat meals directly from Tamil Nadu and dumping it in the training centres. The food was rejected by the locals and was used as fodder for the cattle. Indents given for fulfilling orders were manipulated and illiterate women were hired for the job (according to the agreement, they had to pay a small part of the profit to these women).”

“CFI had set up a parallel channel of giving bribes,” say sources in the Lokayukta. “Right from the taluk level, child development project officers would receive around 1 percent of the amount cleared.”

This year, on 10 March, Lokayukta officials raided Shyamala Iqbal’s house and found 900 grams of gold, diamonds worth Rs 4 lakh, bank deposits worth Rs 65 lakh and a Toyota Innova. They also found documents showing ownership of a commercial complex at Church Street, Bengaluru, a house in HAL 3rd Stage worth Rs 60 lakh and a site in Arkavathy Layout, also in Bengaluru. Shyamala Iqbal did not respond to queries by TEHELKA.

The whole network was managed by CFI employees Kumaraswamy and SS Mani from the state level. “Earlier, the money was given to the officials wherever they were located. After a dispute, it was centralised at CFI’s Malleswaram office,” says the officer. Interestingly, a faction of the pro-Kannada outfit, Karnataka Rakshana Vedike, was roped in for proper distribution of the bribe money. All the officers would come in the first week of every month to collect their share.

Responding to TEHELKA’s queries, CFI general manager (administration) Shivanandan said, “The matter is sub-judice and an inquiry is going on. It is too premature to comment on anything now.”

According to information obtained under RTI, more than 21 lakh children in the state are mildly malnourished and 12 lakh moderately malnourished. More than 70,000 suffer from severe malnutrition.

Even if one goes by the official data, the rate of deaths is quite alarming: almost two-three deaths per day due to child malnutrition. According to the DWCD, between April and August 2011, 2,689 children have died due to acute malnutrition in Raichur district alone.

Hunger Pangs

Rs 600 cr the annual cost of the mid-day meal scheme

33 lakh children in the state are eligible for mid-day meals

70,000 children suffer from acute malnutrition in the state

2-3 children die of malnutrition every day, on an average

THAT THE state cannot afford to be complacent on the child nutrition front is obvious from Karnataka’s 11th rank in the India State Hunger Index. According to the findings of the third National Family Health Survey (NFHS) in Karnataka, the infant mortality rate is 43 deaths per 1,000 births (before the age of one) and 55 deaths per 1,000 births (under the age of five). The NFHS study also says that infant mortality in rural areas is 28 percent higher than in urban areas. The study also reveals that more than half the women in Karnataka (52 percent) have anaemia, including 63 percent of pregnant women with mild anaemia. The recently released state Economic Survey report of 2012 reveals that poverty in Karnataka continues to be the highest among the southern states.

As the CFI battles to clear its name, the government is unlikely to renew its contract. However, it has inked a deal with mining giant Vedanta to fill in CFI’s shoes. On 10 April, Vendanta entered into an MoU with the government to provide mid-day meals to two lakh kids in four districts. Not only is this Rs 12 crore deal in violation of law (as the SC ruling of 2004 mandates no middlemen), it is being seen as part of Vedanta’s PR exercise in the wake of controversies surrounding its mining operations in Odisha and elsewhere.

R Manohar, head of programmes at South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring, says he can’t understand why the state is showing urgency in signing the deal, when there is already a PIL in the Karnataka High Court challenging the involvement of middlemen. “We have seen how CFI functioned. We don’t want another private company playing with the children’s lives,” he says.

Imran Khan is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.
imran@tehelka.com

Christy Friedgram Industries (CFI), involved in ICDS SCAM


Tom Flynn, CFI Executive Director

Tom Flynn, CFI Executive Director (Photo credit: Marty Stone)

Ex-staff spill the beans on Christy’s cheat code

Nandini Chandrashekar, Bangalore, Apr 5, 2012, DHNS :

Christy Friedgram Industries (CFI), the company under investigation by the Lokayukta police for fraudulent practices in the supply of supplementary nutritional food to anganwadis under the Integrated Child Development Scheme, seemed to have an elaborate system of deception in place.

Former employees of CFI approached Deccan Herald and shed light on some of the bad practices adopted by the company, a downright violation of the norms.

The officials of the Department of Women and Child Development have consistently said that CFI was not hired as a contractor for food supply in violation of Supreme Court directives, but they were merely into capacity building.

The capacity building meant the setting up of 137 Mahila Supplementary Nutrition Production and Training Centres (MSPTCs) at the taluk level all over the State.

These centres are supposed to produce the nutritional food and package them according to requirements for supply to anganwadis, to be fed to children, pregnant and lactating mothers.

A former employee of CFI – who was active in the recruitment of women for the MSPTCs – says they were instructed not to hire women who were educated.

The logic behind this was simple. In accordance with the Supreme Court directives, the State government – in its agreement with CFI – had stated that the company apart from getting paid for the raw material it supplied to the MSPTC, would be paid a profit of Rs 1 per kg of food supplied. The rest of the profit that was accrued had to be shared among the members of the MSPTC.

Hiring uneducated women and semi-literate women ensured that no one understood the account details, the indents of supply or any of the accounting they would have to look into; what the turnover of their unit was, which ran into several crores of rupees annually. All the profits were going directly to CFI and the employees of the MSPTC were blissfully unaware.

“Each of the MSPTCs had a staff member of CFI overlooking all financial details and transactions. The President, Vice President and Treasurer were women who had no clue what was happening. They signed on documents when they were told to and some of the women gave their thumb impressions.

Their job merely was to load and unload the food material, mix the different items and package the food. They were paid a salary for this job. Beyond this, they did not know anything,” the former employee said. Members who usually number around 22 in these centres have absolutely no medical facilities and even miss out on incentives. If they miss one day of work, their salary is deducted, the ex-staffer added.

Not only were the women uneducated, there were also instructions to the employees that the location of the MSPTCs had to be in a remote area. “Our superiors insisted that the place we choose has to be as far as possible and located in villages rather than in taluk headquarters.

Only later did we understand that this was so, so that the place is not accessible easily for inspections by government officials,” the ex-employee said.