Food & ‘Un’Civil Supply Department of Bhujbal’s ….
TPDS, Targeted Public Distribution System, under the Food and Civil Supply Department of Maharashtra Government is under Public eye today. I am telling you in advance here, if things are going to continue the way they are now in this department, then one day the Minister for the Department Chagan Bhujbal, his nephew Sameer Bhujbal, his private secretary Pardeshi, an IAS who was recently transferred from this department, and few contractors will be in a big soup. After having lost the name, fame and fortune when ED tightened its clutches around Bhujbal’s , I had thought lessons would be learnt, but I am forced to say otherwise now.
A brief history of PDS to understand better. Before 2012 there was a system of how ration used to reach ration shops in our state. After the Centre delivered the ration to the State Warehouse, the ration shop owners used to drive to the warehouse from all across the state, and get it to their shops and it would be further distributed to the people. In this policy a lot of underweighting, undercutting , inflated transport bills by the ration-shop owners happened which forced then Secretary IAS Bhagwan Sahay in 2012 to introduce a new policy of Direct Doorstep Delivery to the retailers/vendors. As per this new policy, the food items (ration) will be directly sent to the vendors from the State Warehouse godown. The need to come to the warehouse and arrange for transportation and manage labor, all of this was over. State took the responsibility of the same. Sahay made this policy but then later got transferred as a routine. Then came IAS Deepak Kapoor and took charge of the department and in his tenure till 2015-16 the Food & Civil Supply Department were able to cover 10 to 12 districts without any hassle and a lot of ‘state money’ was saved, using this same policy.
But then this policy was a bit complicated and only 10 to 12 districts could benefit and those who had geographical disadvantage couldn’t benefit from this scheme. Kapoor then moved to the SRA and IAS Mahesh Pathak who succeeded Kapoor at the Department as Secretary, just ‘simplified’ this policy more and it was made easier to implement. This new GR with changes (Government Resolution) was passed at the Cabinet and it came into force. For the first time, to transport the foodgrains from State Warehouse to shopkeepers, tenders were floated from all across the state, wherever the state couldn’t reach. Even Konkan for the first time benefited from this GR and regions like Raigad, Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri too participated in the tender. Contractors (Transporter’s) participated in Tenders and the rates were often filled in at PAR or even sometimes below the Base rate. Yes, you read it right!
But then came the problem of Labours, Mathaadi. Hence a decision was arrived at. Transportation of food-grains from Warehouse to the ration shops including the labour was given to the Contractor-himself. Labours were a problem for transporters but yet the transporter made money and saved a lot of Governments too! Then came the MVA Government. Pathak was shifted to the Urban Development including few good junior officers, and Vilas Patil (promotee IAS) as Secretary (now Konkan Commissioner) was brought in place of him. By the way, wherever there are schemes related to the Government of India, a promotee IAS is not to be appointed. Direct from the Cadre is utmost necessary. Government failed here big time!
First & foremost crucial changes were made in the existing policy by this new Government by this new captain of the ship. As per the policy made earlier, the planning and execution of the PDS was decided at the Collector level. This MVA Government brought this execution to State level now. Automatically, all powers are now vested with the Minister & his cronies. All his fancies and whims are taken care of! Collector who knew his district, the MVA, decided one fine day, it was not his cup of tea anymore.
A contractor who was known for his antics from Jalgaon -Madhusudan Bhutala entered the scene. A team of like minded ‘goons & looters’ was formed out of choice and then began the loot. Now tenders are being filled with ‘limited and consortium’ contractors which are 3 to 4 times of base rate. A new policy with ‘decided’ terms and conditions was formed by this new group. Achaa, just to safeguard themselves, and show some kind of opposition to this new policy, Sagar Bhatewara (Yes, a very close aide of Anil Deshmukh and these gold diggers too) approached the Nagpur High Court and obviously the plea got dismissed. Wonder, if Anil Deshmukh still gets his hafta from this department too? Remember he was the Minister of the same department in the 2009-2014 Government.
Now there is a cartel for transporting everything and the state Government is suffering huge losses due to this new policy. And this Bhutala, has removed the most important condition from the GR. It has been now decided that only those who transport ‘Food-grains’ will be able to participate in Tenders. Look at this! Doorstep Delivery was introduced only a few years ago and not that popular amongst the majority of Transporters of Maharashtra. Just to add ‘his’ people in the cartel, it is said Bhutala stressed on this condition. Majority and cost effective people automatically backed off, leaving it to the cartel to loot the Government. By the way these contractors approached the Supreme Court too, but their case to their dismay, was dismissed too. God Knows, what all was ‘not presented’ to the SC.
Acha, it is not easy to be a contractor in the cartel too. Have heard now that Rs. 50 per quintal per delivery calculation is done for 3 years and that is decided as an ‘advance’ to be taken (Imagine the figure from each contractor selected to be a part of cartel) just to be a part of the cartel. To top it off, Bills of these contractors aren’t released too at all at one go. All Contractors from all over Maharashtra have to visit Pardeshi for this. If ‘conditions are met’ then he will call some Yadav in the Finance Department (accomplice) and then only bills will be released. A detailed letter in this regard has been written by MLA Akash Fundkar and he has shown the difference of rates before the MVA Government and after the MVA Government took over. By the way those from Anti Corruption and EOW or ED or whosoever just find this person called Satish Ghorpade. If his phone records are tracked a lot will be revealed as given by me. His mobile number is 09892033453.
Vikrant Hemant Joshi