Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan should resign, the Congress has demanded, citing an alleged scam in ration distribution. “It is a scam of at least Rs 2,000 crore,” said former minister and senior Congress leader Jeetu Patwari.
“There should be an inquiry by a High Court judge or an independent agency. But no such thing is possible if CM Chouhan remains in his post,” he added.
NDTV reported the irregularities in the take-home ration scheme on the basis of a confidential government audit report.
The BJP government today contested the very basis. “It was only a draft report. The Women and Child Development Department will give a timely reply to it. The draft is not the final report,” state minister Vishwas Sarang said.
The 36-page report found large-scale fraud, fake beneficiaries, and irregularities in production, distribution and quality control in the ambitious free food scheme for schoolchildren. All this comes at the risk of leaving children under-nourished and costing taxpayers crores of rupees.
“The Women and Child Department said it distributed 4.05 metric tonnes of ration till 2021 while spending Rs 2,393.21 crore on 1.35 crore beneficiaries. But trucks claimed to be transporting ration were not trucks and their registration numbers were found to be of motorcycles, cars, autos and other small vehicles,” Congress’s Jeetu Patwari cited.
But the government has said “clerical errors” were the reson for bikes being “mistaken” for trucks. Minister Vishwas Sarang said, “We collected information from one of the plants in Baadi and found that THR (take-home ration) was transported through 1,734 trucks. The AG initially objected to use of 34 vehicles by saying the numbers were not of trucks. We found that all 34 numbers had difference of only one number due to clerical error. All numbers, minus that error, were actually of trucks. In a document, wrong number was entered.”
On discrepancy in the number of beneficiaries he said surveys over the years found that the number of eligible adolescent girls under the scheme had reduced from 2.6 lakh in 2018-19 to 1.28 lakh in 2020-21. “In 2021, only 15,000 remained,” he said.
Chief Minister Chouhan, who was recently in the news over being removed from the BJP’s top decision-making panel, has not responded to these demands for his resignation.