Kuldeep Tiwari, Meranews: While the state is busy in celebrating the world’s longest dancing festival – Navratri, Gujarat government has come under scanner of an alleged fraud in the ‘Vibrant Navratri Festival’ being organized by the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Ltd (TCGL)  along with Youth Service and Cultural Activities department at GMDC ground in Ahmedabad.

Gujarat Government’s Youth Service and Cultural Activities department, which had floated the tender for the cultural programme at the GMDC’s opening day event, has been alleged of favoring one of the applicants in awarding the contract.

As per the allegations by other bidders, the Youth Service and Cultural Activities department favoured Santh Shraddha Trust in availing the contract, despite the trust being registered for educational purposes.

In a complaint sent to the Gujarat Chief minister, Vijay Rupani along with Chief Secretary and Commissioner of Gujarat Government’s Youth Service and Cultural Activities department, the bidders have alleged fraud in the allotment process for the cultural programme of 90 minutes, worth Rs 44 lakh.

One of the bidders of the Vibrant Navratri Festival at GMDC, Abhilash Ghoda, the complained, objected for allotment of work to Santh Shraddha Trust whose primary expertise is in education. However, they involved a cultural trust named ‘Kalapath’ to perform on their behalf.

Talking to Meranews.in, Abhilash Ghoda said, “First, the bidder (Santh Shraddha) technically wasn’t eligible to participate in the bid because of the nature of their Trust beijng different; despite that they won the bid. Secondly, in the online bidding the name of the Trust is shown as Santh Shraddha whereas in the actual meeting, the closed document had name of Kalapath on the cover; how the officials knew it’s the same bidder (Santh Shraddha) when its name was also not mentioned is still suspense.”

Agreeing with Ghoda, Jaydeep Nakrani, another bidder said, “We were present at the day when the physical bidding process and presentation took place. The name of the document had Kalapath Trust’s name. However, the online bidding had Santh Shraddha’s name. Ideally the documents have to be with the same name.”

Similarly, there is buzz of Santh Shraddha and Kalapath’s close association with Bhartiya Janta Party’s senior MLA. Meanwhile, there are also allegations on allotment of script writing and music composition work to those big names who are connected with the trust, who are already drawing salaries from organizations like Gujarat Sahitya Academy and Gujarat Sangeet Natak Academy.

Another bidder, pleading anonymity, told Meranews.in, “There were about 11 bidders for the online tender and of them there were many such who have been doing government events since a long time. Still the tender was allotted to someone who even doesn’t even justify the criteria.”  

Further, the bidder also questioned, “Why the trust gave script writing and music composition work to people who are already drawing fat salaries from organizations like Gujarat Sahitya Academy and Gujarat Sangeet Natak Academy; because they have affiliation with BJP?”

The tender took place on August 19, 2017. Sighting the alleged injustice the applicants met the Youth Service and Cultural Activities commissioner, MA Gandhi the next day (August 20) at his office to request them to look into the matter.

In the meeting they requested to nullify tender of Santh Shraddha as the offline presentation was done by other trust ‘Kalapath’ and as the online bidder ‘Santh Shraddha’ must remain present to give the presentation. Moreover, how did they know that Kalapath is the same agency on behalf of Santh Shraddha Trust when their name wasn’t mentioned anywhere on their (Kalapath) covered document?

When contacted Santh Shraddha Trust and Kalapath Trust for their comments they were not available.

Commenting on the issue, Service and Cultural Activities commissioner, MA Gandhi told Meranews.in, “We had checked their financial statements audited which has been audited by the Chartered Accountant. So far as their nature of work as Trust is concerned, it falls under the Charity Commissioner’s jurisdiction.”

For the issue of identification of the online company ‘Santh Shraddha’ and physical tender document by Kalapath Trust, Gandhi said, “We know the bidders who have been regularly applying for multiple events. So we know most of them by face. Moreover, we had asked whose document is it at the time of opening it so they were available to respond.

Abhilash Ghoda said that we wish that the government should look into this scam and cancel the contract pay to the artists via the department and not the agency (Santh Shraddha Trust). Moreover, they trust be black listed too for fraudulent deed.”

Interestingly, Santh Shraddha Trust had come under scanner earlier too for allotment of government event via same department in the past.

The complainant (Ghoda) is also planning to approach to the Gujarat Lokayukta if he doesn’t get satisfactory reply from the authorities.

“I have mailed my complaint to Gujarat Chief minister, Vijay Rupani along with Chief Secretary and Commissioner of Gujarat Government’s Youth Service and Cultural Activities department. If they fail to help me I will approach the Gujarat Lokayukta for justice,” said Ghoda.