The West Bengal government on Wednesday dubbed the Union Ministry of Education panel finding "serious discrepancies in the information submitted regarding the number of meals served at various levels" as "one-sided" where the views of the state have not been noted and the data "needs to be verified".
The Ministry of Education (MoE) had in January constituted the 'joint review mission' (JRM) to review the implementation of Centrally sponsored scheme PM POSHAN in West Bengal following complaints of irregularities.
The panel found that the serving of around 16 crore midday meals worth over Rs 100 crore were over-reported by the local administration in West Bengal from April to September last year.
The panel also questioned the diversion of funds meant for the scheme to pay compensation to fire victims, misallocation of food grains, cooking of rice, dal and vegetables up to 70 per cent less than "prescribed quantities", and usage of expired packets of condiments.
Reacting to the report, West Bengal Education minister Bratya Basu said that the JRM submitted the report without the signature of the Project Director of the state-cooked midday meal scheme, who was representative of the state government.
"What, therefore, is the 'joint' in the joint review committee if the report is not even shared with him for his opinions or views? So it is clear that the views of the state have not been taken into account. We have already written in protest to the chairman of the JRM, to which we have not received any response yet," Basu said in a statement.
Wondering why this 'hide and seek' if there is no malafide intention of the state government, Basu said the data, which has come out in the media, needs to be verified.
"It has to be seen if the JRM report reflects the actual fact and if the state government's views regarding the discrepancies have been incorporated," he said.
Basu said the CAG had conducted an audit till 21-22, but the state government didn't receive any such feedback.
Echoing him, senior TMC MP Santanu Sen dubbed the report as "baseless" and an attempt to malign the state government.
"It is an attempt to malign the state government. Why is there no signature of the representative of the state government in the report? This reflects the vindictive mindset of the Centre," he said.
The opposition BJP went hammer and tongs against the state government and alleged that corruption has turned into an endemic under the TMC regime in the state.
"Corruption is endemic in Mamata Banerjee's Govt. Her administration didn't even spare the PM Poshan funds. Joint review between the state and Centre found that WB diverted 100 cr for other purposes! Children were underfed. Supplies cut. LoP @SuvenduWB had filed complaint," senior BJP leader and co-in-charge of West Bengal Amit Malviya tweeted.
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