Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Mar 19:
Barely two weeks before its launch on Aril 1, ‘Aahar’, the much publicised subsidised lunch scheme for the urban poor recently announced by the Odisha government, has run into rough weather over awarding of the contract to provide food to two NGOs without inviting tenders for it.
A civil society organisation (CSO) Sahara Janamancha has lodged a written complaint with the state Urban Development Minister in this regard. The aggrieved party, in its complaint, alleged that the department had roped in two organisations– Touchstone Foundation and Manna Trust— arbitrarily without following the tendering process, hinting at large-scale irregularity in the process.
Had the state government invited tenders for the Rs 5 a meal scheme, many non-profit and voluntary organisations would have come forward to offer lunch at Rs 15 comprising rice and dalma to the beneficiaries. The cost of a lunch would have been thus reduced by Rs 5 and would have resulted in savings of around Rs 4.5 crore annually, the organisation said.
Besides, the urban development department has not put in place a mechanism to supervise the number of meals to be prepared on daily basis. In addition to this, the corporate houses would entrust the task of sourcing grocery and other kitchen requirements to private parties. This raises the possibility of possible fixing between the parties, it argued.
If the Urban Development department doesn’t invite fresh tenders, the organisation would be forced to knock the doors of court, it threatened.
As per government estimate, each meal would cost around Rs 20, but only Rs 5 will be collected from each beneficiary for which around Rs 10.98 crore per annum would be required to meet the expenditure towards providing meals at a subsidised rate.
In view of this, the government has signed MoUs with corporate houses to bear the expenses to provide meals to 4,000 people each in five cities in the state from April 1, coinciding with the 79th foundation day of the state.
The government has roped in Touchstone Foundation, a subsidiary of the Akshay Patra Foundation and Manna Trust, to manage the centralised kitchen and Aahaar outlets in five cities across Odisha. While the Akshay Patra Foundation will be managing outlets in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and Rourkela, the Manna Trust will be looking after Brahmapur and Sambalpur outlets.
Notably, the meals will be available between 11 am and 3 pm at the designated outlets.