Several irregularities have been found in the Madhya Pradesh government's ration programme, highlighting alleged high levels of corruption of more than Rs 100 crore, a document accessed by The Quint revealed.
A confidential 36-page audit report, prepared by the state's own accountant general, found irregularities in the Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan-run Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, in areas such as production, identification of beneficiaries, and quality control among others.
The most stark irregularities were found in the Take Home Ration (THR) programme in 2021, which was aimed at providing nourishing meals for 49.58 lakh registered women and children.
The beneficiaries include 34.69 lakh children between the ages of six months and three years, 14.25 lakh pregnant/lactating mothers, and 64,000 Out Of School Adolescent Girls (OOSAGs) between the ages of 11 and 14.
Figure of 9,000 Beneficiaries Fudged as 36 Lakh
Further, despite being directed by the Centre and the state government to complete a survey by April 2018 to identify school girls eligible for ration, the state's Women and Child Development (WCD) Department only finished the survey by February 2021.
Also, while the School Education Department estimated that there were only 9,000 out-of-school girls in 2018-19, the WCD Department estimated the number to be 36.08 lakh.
Further, the audit revealed that in 49 Anganwadi centres in the state, only three out-of-school girls had been registered as beneficiaries. However, the WCD listed 63,748 girls for the same 49 centres and claimed that they had extended support to 29,104 among them from 2018 to 2021.
Data manipulation in the distribution of ration was deemed to be worth Rs 110.83 crore.
Distribution Trucks Registered as Bikes, Autos
Apart from this, the trucks claimed to have been used by six ration manufacturing plants, and were said to have transported ration costing Rs 6.94 crore, were registered as bikes, cars, autos and tankers.
The ration manufacturing plants were also found to be reporting a production rate which was well beyond their permitted capacity. When parameters like consumption of raw material and electricity were compared to the real production figures, a total of Rs 58 crore was found to be fabricated.
Furthermore, over 10,000 metric tonnes of ration, amounting to Rs 62.72 crore, were not transported or available at the warehouse. This indicates that it might have been embezzled.
In eight districts, authorities received more than 97,000 metric tonnes of rations, but supplied only 86,000 metric tonnes to Aanganwadi centres.
The reports of district programme officers from Bhopal, Sagar and Chhindwara districts revealed the most staggering levels of corruption.
No Quality Checks
Also there was an indication of poor-quality ration having been supplied to the beneficiaries.
Ration supplies are required to be sent to independent laboratories outside the state during different stages of its distribution process. This is done so that quality checks for its nutritional content can be conducted to ensure high-quality food supply to Anganwadi centres. However, the audit reveals that this was not conducted.
Also, in eight districts, officials did not inspect Anganwadies from 2018-19.
The ration distribution programme in the state has been functioning under the supervision of CM Chouhan since 2020.
It is run by an additional chief secretary from the WCD Department and has 10 joint directors, over 50 officers at the district level and 450 Child Development Project Officers.
The accountant general also pertinently noted that despite the THR scheme having 4.98 million registered beneficiaries in the Madhya Pradesh, the state was the third-worst in terms of maternal mortality from 2017-19.