Reiterating that she has done nothing wrong, Maharashtra Women and Child Development Minister Pankaja Munde, who is under fire after being accused of flouting norms in approving purchase of goods by her department, on Wednesday said she is being targeted by the Opposition.
Speaking to India Today TV, Pankaja blamed the Opposition of maligning her image through false and baseless allegations. When asked if she feels being targeted by someone in her own party, Pankaja said, “Nobody in BJP is targeting me, I am confident of that.”
Referring to the alleged Rs 206 crore ‘chikki scam’, the Maharashtra minister said, “Rs 206 crore seems big but beneficiaries are in lakhs. I can account for every single rupee spent by my department.” “I signed 250 files in one day, doesn’t mean I favoured someone. I meet many people everyday as I am from a known political family, that doesn’t mean I will favour anyone and award contracts,” Pankaja replied when asked about claims that she favoured people known to her while awarding contracts.
No question of resignation
Pankaja Munde rejected Opposition demands of stepping down from her post in the wake of scam allegations, saying there is no proof to back allegations against her.
“If I resign it will mean I am owning up to the corruption charges. However, if my party and seniors advise me to step down, I will think about it. Allegations levelled against me are serious, but these are just allegations,” she said. “These allegations are a wake-up call for me over how to handle things,” Pankaja added.
Earlier talking to reporters in Mumbai, Pankaja presented a point by point rebuttal of scam charges against her. “Wrong things are being said about me in newspapers. In the past few days, I have studied all allegations against me and there is no truth in them,” she said.
Pankaja clarified that funds released by the Centre would have lapsed if there would have been further delay in ordering purchase of good by the women and child development department. “My intention was to save every penny of the government fund,” she claimed.
“There is no question of favouring anyone. Contractors who were given contracts are not new. Same contractors have been supplying goods during the NCP government’s regime. The contract process was started by the last government,” Pankaja said.
Allegations against Pankaja
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 15 , 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).
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.