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Body bag controversy: Amid allegations of corruption, BMC cancels the contract, to place a new tender

In a statement, the BMC had claimed that only Vedant Innotech Private Limited was found eligible during the tender, out of 10 companies

On Friday, the Shiv Sena-run Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) was reportedly forced to scrap its contract with an Aurangabad-based company named Vedant Innotech Private Limited over allegations of malpractices in the procurement of body bags.

On Thursday, activist Anjali Damania lambasted BMC on Twitter for procuring body bags from the company whose original business was metal casting with no experience in making body bags. She alleged that Vedant Innotech Private Limited sold each bag for ₹6,719 whereas the actual price of such bags ranged between ₹250 to ₹1200. As such, BMC was paying 9 to 10 times higher than the actual cost. Reportedly, 2200 body bags had been purchased by the BMC from the said company since April, thus costing the exchequer ₹1.15 crores.

Labelling the state of affairs as ‘disgusting’, Damania further alleged that one of the directors of Vedant Innotech Private Limited namely Satish Kalyankar was a member of the Censor Board. Anjali Damania further alleged that the body bags were available at ₹3800 in the United States whereas the BMC was purchasing the bags for ₹6,719. She alleged, “There is a scam all across, and when we exposed this BMC cancelled the contract.”

BJP demands answers from Shiv Sena

On June 11, BJP Secretary (Mumbai) Vivekanand Gupta tweeted that the body bags which cost around ₹600 were being sold for ₹6,719. Demanding answers from Uddhav Thackeray, he wrote, “Mrita deh par see ghee nikal, roti mein lagakar khana jesa kaam kiya hai.” The loose translation goes as, “It is like exploiting the dead and making money out of it.” Interestingly, his tweet preceded the tweet of Anjali Damania.

Clarification by the BMC

In a statement, the BMC had claimed that only Vedant Innotech Private Limited was found eligible during the tender, out of 10 companies, and as such the contract for the procurement of body bags was given to the said company. On being asked about the high pricing, BMC justified the move saying that they wanted ‘good quality bags’ for Coronavirus-infected corpses. The civic body said that the bags were impermeable, opaque, leak-proof and that they had finalised the bags as per the specifications of the Union Health Ministry.

Reportedly, the decision to cancel the order now has been made to ensure ‘competitive pricing.’ Additional Municipal Commissioner (Projects) P Velarasu remarked, “Last month, we had floated a tender in which ten bidders had participated and Vedant Innotech qualified. Now following the controversy we have decided to float fresh tenders on Saturday.”

BMC mayor Kishori Pedneka said that there would be no compromise on the quality of the body bags. She said that the BMC would procure the body bags, provided the suppliers met the given criteria. According to the Chairman of the BMC Health Committee, Amey Ghole, Vedanta was supplying body bags to various government departments such as the Navy. He reiterated that they got the products at a ‘reasonable rate.’

Vedant ‘not aware’ of the contract cancellation

Speaking to the Indian Express, Vedant director Satish Kalyankar said that he was not aware that the contract was cancelled. In his defence, Satish claimed that the company had been supplying disaster management materials to the defence forces and the NDRF (National Disaster Response Force) during floods and other calamities. He stated that the products of the company were approved by the central government and that everything was on their website. Satish further claimed that the company had patented the body bags as only Vedant use fluid absorbing pads that minimised the spread of Coronavirus infection.

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