Earlier this year on April 12, when Maharashtra’s legislative session was stormed by Opposition leaders, alleging a scam worth Rs 297 crore in purchase of drugs for state’s public health system cornering the health minister and Shiv Sena leader Dr Deepak Sawant, the government had suspended director of health services Dr Satish Pawar, with immediate effect.
The suspension prior to a preliminary inquiry announced during the legislative session stunned the opposition, which was going berserk over the issue, with the NCP taking credit of “exposing” another big scam of the Devendra Fadnavis government.
A day before, the government had suspended two of Dr Pawar’s juniors — Dr Raju Johewar, assistant director, national health mission and Dr Sachin Desai, deputy health director — charged in the same case.
However, two-and-a-half months down the line, no body knows where the probe of such a crucial matter is. From chief minister’s office to public health department to the minister, all cited cluelessness about the probe.
When Contacted Dr Bhagwan Sahai, who headed the one-man probe panel, he said: “I submitted the report to the health minister on June 4.” He, however, refused to share the details of his findings, citing confidentiality.
Dr Sawant on the other hand denied receiving the report. “No, I have not received the report yet,” he insisted. Health secretary Sujata Saunik too echoed minister voice and said she had not got the report.
Meanwhile, Dr Pawar continues to be suspended along with the other two officials.
Interestingly, Dr Pawar was handling the portfolio even as he had lost the case in Supreme Court in December 2015 challenging his appointment on the grounds that the MPSC stipulated a criterian in the middle of the selection process to shortlist the candidates which had left only six contenders in the race. The apex court had allowed Dr Pawar to continue till the new person is appointed.
The process to select the new person has been initiated now. The post was advertised by the MPSC recently. Interviews are yet to be held. Confirming the development, VN More, the MPSC chairman told “The process for selection of health director is on.” Interestingly, Dr Pawar is one of the contenders.
Earlier, leader of Opposition in the legislative council Dhananjay Munde had alleged a “scam” in the procurement of drugs worth Rs 297 crore.
He presented documents related to 591 purchase orders, all made on March 31, 2015. He claimed that large quantities of iodine bottles, diabetes medicines etc were bought even though the municipal corporations didn’t need them.
He later wrote to the health department seeking help in hiring godowns to store the bulk consignments delivered to them.
Dr Pawar claims he is innocent and would come out clean in the inquiry. “I was only one of the 19 members of central purchase committee. There is no irregularity or excess purchase in that. I am being implicated.”
Passing the buck on NHM officials, Dr Pawar said: “We ordered 269 medicines worth Rs 254 crore for primary health centres in 2014-15.
There is no irregularity in our purchase. The medicines for corporations were ordered by the National health mission joint director (Dr Johewar). Out of 170 medicines ordered by NHM, 43 were in excess.
While 21 medicines were accommodated within various corporations, we agreed to take 22 medicines for our PHCs just to stop the wastage. Those medicines were just worth Rs 3.58 crore for which we spent nothing. Instead, state got it for free from Centre’s fund.”