BJP’s Maharashtra Minister Pankaja Munde came under fire from not only opposition but also ally Shiv Sena, after she posted selfies on her tour of parched Latur on the weekend in appreciation of the work done there by the local administration for drought relief. She was trolled on social media sites with people accusing her of finding a photo opportunity in the middle of a massive disaster. Munde is also the guardian minister for Beed and Latur, where the state government is transporting lakhs of litres of water by train. Netizens on social media have accused Ms Munde, the state’s minister for water conservation, of gross insensitivity. BJP as a whole is a selfie and optics party, this is like making a mockery of the drought. The party has failed in Maharashtra; people voted for them with great expectations but now repenting, as they could not govern the state.
If we closely observe, from Prime Minister to all other BJP leaders are obsessed with photo shoots and selfies, whenever or whatever is the situation, they are seen posting pictures on social media. In such a serious situation the ministers are clicking selfies. I think they should watch their actions before doing such things. It’s completely a virtual government; they just live and rule on selfies and photos of development. Visit any page of profile of BJP leader you will find thousands of selfies and pictures posted by them, voters wonder how come a minister manages to spend so much time on social media when they claim all their profiles are handled by themselves.
This is not the first time that Pankaja has come under attack, there are many allegations since she became minister, the controversy started with her greed to become CM of Maharashtra she was assuming herself as a strong contender of the same position, anyhow she could not succeed in making enough noise and took whatever was offered to her by BJP. Later on accusations of irregularities have been levelled against her over the award of a dam-building contract to a private company. The Rural Development department headed by her had awarded a contract to build minor dams in Jalna district to a firm headed by industrialist Ratnakar Gutte. But the company had earlier been disqualified under a technicality, despite being the lowest bidder. The allegations had plunged the Devendra Fadnavis government into its first major controversy over graft.
There after she was accused in Rs 206 crore ‘chikki scam’, but Pankaja gave explanation saying the amount seems big but beneficiaries are in lakhs. She can account for every single rupee spent by her department. Those days she was asked to resign but Pankaja denied doing so. Pankaja Munde rejected Opposition’s demands of stepping down from her post in the wake of scam allegations, saying there is no proof to back allegations against her. In June 2015, the opposition party Indian National Congress accused her of being involved in a scam, alleging that she had flouted norms by clearing the purchase without floating tenders. Munde rejected the accusations of corruption, arguing that a policy for an online tendering system was not in place when she commissioned the purchase. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis also defended her, stating that the norm of inviting e-tenders was introduced by his government in April, two months after Munde cleared the contracts.
Munde clarified on this news and said that contracts were given as per the government norms. Munde has got some reprieve as the snack supplied to schools has been found unadulterated and fit for consumption by two government labs. The Maharashtra women and child development department procured goods worth Rs 206 crore without following the set guidelines. According to government rules, ministries placing order above Rs 3 lakh must do so through the e-tendering process. However, Pankaja, allegedly cleared 24 purchase orders to buy chikki, mats and books for anganwadi schools in a single day without inviting tenders. The scam first came to light on June 15th 2015, when the office of Pankaja Munde received a letter from Ahmednagar Zila Parishad president Manjushree Gund complaining about the quality of chikki (a popular snack) distributed to tribal students under the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS).
Further, Pankaja Munde has also been accused of violating bidding norms and approving a contract of Rs 1.63 crore to a controversial firm. Tenders for 12 cement check dams were floated by Devendra Fadnavis government to tackle water scarcity in the drought-hit state.
In January 2015, Maharashtra Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had allocated Rs 1,000 crore for the integrated water conservation and management initiative (Jalyukta Shivaar Abhiyaan), which aims at getting rid of drought from 5,000 villages in 2016. He had instructed the officials to release Rs 600 crore by June. Pankaja had announced that the BJP-Shiv Sena government would start its Jalyukta Shivaar Abhiyaan in 2500 village at one go to make Maharashtra drought proof in five years.
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