NEW DELHI: The BJP has taken the Right to Information (RTI) route to lay bare what it sees as the â€˜wheat import scamâ€™. The party sniffs huge irregularities in the deal and has even claimed that its stand has been vindicated.
Armed with the details secured through the RTI, the party on Thursday reiterated its demand for the dismissal of Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar and wanted a CBI inquiry into the entire episode, which, it alleged, had caused a big loss to the exchequer.
With the monsoon session of Parliament commencing on Friday, the party has made up its mind to haul up the ruling combine over the alleged bungling. â€œThe prime minister must come clean on the subject,â€ BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar said here on Thursday afternoon.
The BJP, Mr Javadekar said, had sought information on the reasons for the cancellation of the first round of bids invited at the rate of $263 per million tonne (MT) in May this year. The food and consumer affairs ministry cited six factors that led to the termination of the tenders at the said rate.
â€œTenders were floated by the STC on behalf of the government in May. After negotiations with the foreign suppliers, the STC recommended purchase of 3.06 lakh tonnes of wheat at $263/MT. However, none of the bids were accepted by the government as the STC had said there were possibilities of a softening of prices for arrival beyond August 2007 compared to the June-August prices received in the tender,â€ the information made available through the RTI read.
There were other factors, too, including reports that the Australian crop to be harvested during November-December, 2007 was described as â€œgoodâ€ by the International Grain Council, talk of declining price curve of wheat in the international market by all the three related agencies, namely the IGC, Reuters and the Chicago Board of Trade, the governmentâ€™s decision to take advantage of future market conditions, fears that acceptance of imported wheat at prices higher than procurement price in the domestic market would induce discontentment among the farmers and apprehensions that the traders would resort to hoarding wheat stocks in the hope of a future price rise.
â€œThis was the governmentâ€™s assessment on June 1 this year,â€ Mr Javadekar said, adding, â€œIt suddenly changed its stance around June 10 and decided to re-tender for the import of 50 lakh MT of wheat immediately.â€
Tenders were floated for 5.11 million tonnes of wheat, which were subsequently awarded to three firms at a weighted average price of $325/MT. â€œThis is a clear admission of not only a flip-flop or an error of judgement, but foul play,â€ the BJP spokesman said. The governmentâ€™s decision to import wheat, notwithstanding its own assessment, proves that something happened behind the scenes during the first week of June and some vested interests had played their part, he added.
As reported by Poornima Swaminathan in mid-day.com on 21 January 2011:
Jail stint: 2.5 yrs, In hospital: 1.5 yrs)
Jail stint: 2.5 yrs, In hospital: 1.5 yrs
Matka queen Jaya Bhagat has spent 490 days out of her 30-month jail custody at JJ hospital, reveals RTI; sources say she even runs her racket from there
The safest place to run a gambling racket in the city could well be from the sanitised environs of a hospital bed.
It has come to the fore that Jaya Bhagat, arrested on charges of orchestrating the murder of ex-husband matka king Suresh Bhagat in 2008, has competently been running the matka business while admitted to JJ hospital's general ward over the last year.
Jaya Bhagat stays in the general ward instead of the prisoners' ward at JJ Hospital.
At a time when medical facilities in the prison are dismal and most prisoners do not have access to basic cough tablets and painkillers, Jaya's overstay at the hospital is raising many eyebrows.
Well-placed sources said that instead of serving time in a prison, Jaya, under the guise of being treated, is "being pampered and is enjoying a good time and has also been running the matka business from the hospital ward".
Sources said she has been running the matka business using the cell phones of relatives and visitors who come to see her.
The details of her stay were revealed through an RTI enquiry.
The documents (in MiD DAY's possession) state that Jaya's last stint at JJ hospital was a year long, since January 21, 2010, until January 8, 2011, the date the reply was issued.
Moreover, ever since her jail custody since August 2008, she has been visiting the hospital almost every month (see box), spending an aggregate of 490 days in the hospital's care until date.
According to hospital authorities, Jaya is being treated for hypothyroidism, infection in the urinary bladder, psychotic depression, uterine fibroid, and has been admitted to the neurology ward of the hospital.
As per the rule, undertrials are supposed to be admitted in the prison ward. But jail authorities say that even after they intervened, Jaya has still not been shifted. "Jaya's continual hospital stays did come to my notice.
I wrote to the hospital authorities asking them to shift her to the prisoner ward, but to no avail," said Surinder Kumar, deputy inspector general, prisons.
Earlier this month, when MiD DAY asked JJ hospital dean, Dr T P Lahane, about prisoners staying at hospitals for long stretches, he had said, "It's a difficult task to handle prisoners.
Matka king Suresh Bhagat's murder was orchestrated by Jaya Bhagat in 2008
They approach us with various special requests and unnecessarily pressurise the doctors and hospital administration.
But if the patient is really ill, irrespective of their prisoner status, we will treat the patient as a human being first."
Suresh Bhagat was allegedly murdered by his wife Jaya, son Hitesh and five others in June 2008.
The seven accused were booked under the Maharashtra Control Of Organised Crime Act, after investigations revealed that they had hatched a conspiracy to eliminate Bhagat. The MCOCA charges were dropped later.
According to the police, Jaya and Suresh were running two separate matka gambling operations in the city after they divorced.
The murder conspiracy came to light after a dispute over earnings worth
Rs 100 crore.
Details of Jaya Bhagat's stay at JJ hospital
Jan 21, 2010 to Jan 8, 2011: nearly a year
Dec 12, 2009 to Jan 4, 2010: 25 days
May 30, 2009 to July 14 2009: 45 days
April 25, 2009 to May 15, 2009: 20 days
Mar 25, 2009 to Mar 30, 2009: 6 days
Feb 4, 2009 to Mar 3, 2009: 30 days