Published: 25th November 2020
Civil Society groups in Karnataka demand probe on misuse of funds in midday meals by Akshaya Patra
The letter was signed by Vinay K Sreenivasa, advocate, Siddharth K J, researcher, G Ravi of Fourth Wave Foundation, Dr Sylvia Karpagam, and Dr Veena Shatrugna, medical scientist and others
Civil society groups on Tuesday wrote to Chief Secretary Vijay Bhaskar, demanding an impartial inquiry into allegations of misuse and diversion of government funds by ISKCON’s Akshaya Patra Foundation (APF), meant for the midday meal scheme for government schoolchildren. They said that pending inquiry, all contracts with APF should be cancelled and disbursal of government funds under any scheme should not be permitted.
“If charges of misuse of government funds, and violation of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act are found to be true, criminal proceedings should be initiated against the organisation,” said the nine signatories, working on malnutrition among women and children.
They cited media reports that an internal audit found evidence that funds were used for temple trusts, and questioned whether grains and other material meant for Akshaya Patra are being diverted elsewhere. Use of the kitchen, storage, assets “for the benefit of temple trusts is not an appropriate application of the funds of the foundation. The audit report admits that APF is liable to scrutiny by the tax authorities...”, the letter stated.
Inaction by APF prompted resignation of several trustees, including Mohandas Pai, Chairman of Manipal Global Education. APF Bengaluru branch alone received Rs 34 crore from government sources for the financial year ending March 2019, the letter stated, adding that APF should be probed for possible FCRA violations.
The letter was signed by Vinay K Sreenivasa, advocate, Siddharth K J, researcher, G Ravi of Fourth Wave Foundation, Dr Sylvia Karpagam, and Dr Veena Shatrugna, medical scientist and head of clinical department, National Institute of Nutrition, Savithri Bai Phule Fathima Sheikh Makkala Sangha, Dr Alwyn Prakash, member, Health for All, and Swarna Bhat from Grameen Koligarara Sangha.
The team observed that as per calculations provided by Akshaya Patra, the average cost of each meal is Rs 6.03. While the State government contributes Rs 4.14, APF needs to raise Rs 1.89 to cover the cost. Despite requesting records on donations received for midday meals, the team was not provided relevant information, the letter states.