The Maharashtra government on Monday informed the Bombay High Court that it had stopped the supply of ‘chikki’ food snack to school students on July 10 following complaints that it was “sub-standard”.
The court was hearing a PIL filed by Sandeep Ahire seeking an inquiry by a retired high court judge into the alleged Rs. 206 crore ‘chikki’ scam.
Justice VM Kanade, heading a division bench, observed that the government must have a sense of responsibility in matters involving children. The bench asked the state and other respondents to file a detailed affidavit by August 5.
State Women and Child Development Minister Pankaja Munde has been accused of irregularities in procurement of items worth Rs 206 crore, including chikki, a sweet savoury. It has also been alleged that the chikki, meant to be distributed to tribal students, had traces of clay.
Munde had denied the allegations.
During the hearing today, the state said it had stopped the supply of ‘chikki’ to school students on July 10.
The state’s counsel, Srihari Aney, said that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had assured that he would personally look into the matter.
The state Food and Drugs Administration had seized the entire stock meant for supply to Anganwadi (ashram residential schools), he said.
The bench said the court had to address two issues — whether procedure was followed in the purchase of chikki item and if it was fit for consumption.
Petitioner’s counsel Atul Damle referred to Pune FDA’s report which said that the chikki stock seized was “inedible”.
Last week, the high court had issued notices to the state government, Munde and others in response to the PIL which had sought a ban on distribution of chikki procured by the Women and Child Development Department.
The petition also demands ban on manufacturing of chikki by three suppliers who had got the contract.
Besides Munde and the government, other respondents include the Chief Secretary, the Commissioner of Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) and the three chikki manufacturers.
The PIL refers to media reports about Munde receiving a complaint from Ahmednagar Zilla Parishad about the chikki provided to tribal students under ICDS.
It also mentions the allegation that Munde’s department placed orders for chikki, mats, books, dishes, etc, worth in total Rs. 206 crore, on a single day without e-tendering.