The mission directorate of Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) has been allegedly procuring substandard biscuits from a Kathua-based company which is reportedly facing criminal cases under Food Safety Act in Ganderbal and Kathua.
Besides being of substandard quality, the product has been procured on exorbitant prices.
Details available with Greater Kashmir reveal that the biscuit carrying the brand name "Rattan" has been declared substandard in 2017 under Food Safety & Security Act vide prosecuting authority (designated officer under the act) order no. DO/FSSA/GBL/789-2017 Dated 2.5.2017.
On 14.02.2017, the assistant commissioner Food Safety Ganderbal vide order no. DO/FSSA/GBL-17-2017 issued notice to Rattan Oil Mills, the makers of Rattan biscuits.
The company was informed that sample of their product on analysis was found substandard and misbranded.
"A biscuit company facing prosecution under J&K Food Safety Act and having been declared misbranded and substandard has been allotted order by the ICDS to supply biscuits is a questionable issue," said Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat, chairman RTI Movement.
"These biscuits will be supplied to almost 30,000 Anganwadi centres across the state in the coming weeks and health of around 10 lakh kids will be compromised," Bhat said, adding that they appealed to the Governor administration to immediately look into the matter and order investigation into it.
Sources in the ICDS alleged that the firm and its products were not registered with the Registrar of Trade Mark of India which, according to them, is a mandatory norm fixed by the Central Vigilance Commission.
"Moreover the biscuits are being purchased for Rs 74/Kg while as registered/branded biscuits can be easily purchased at a lower price," sources said.
Sources also alleged the Channa for the Anganwadi centres has been procured at exorbitant prices. "The wholesale rate for high quality Channa is Rs 32/Kg whereas ICDS is allegedly purchasing inferior Channa at the rate of Rs 57/kg," they said.
"If freight component is added to Channa procured from Delhi, the per kg cost won't exceed Rs 36 in Srinagar," they said.
Sources alleged that other food items of inferior quality were being supplied to Anganwadi centres across the state.
"We demand that contractor system for supply of nutritional items should be discouraged as per the Supreme Court guidelines. Instead local auqaf committees or women Self Help Groups (SHGs) under SRLM be encouraged to come forward for supplying nutritional items. The centralized purchases made by ICDS directorate is only breeding corruption," Raja Muzaffar added.