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Cycles on rough ride: DMK Chief joins issue with Minister

Written by: Staff

Chennai, Apr 4: The controversy surrounding the AIADMK Government's ''Free Bicycle Scheme'' has deepened with DMK President M Karunanidhi reiterating his charges of corruption in the scheme providing free bicylces to poor school students.

Hours after AIADMK Election Wing secretary and Public Works Minsiter O Panneerselvam refuted the charge, the DMK leader, in a statement here last night, said the very fact the Minister had accepted a ''minor technical lapse'' in the tender process showed all was not well with the scheme.

Alleging an irregularity had taken place, whether it was minor or major, he asked when four firms quoted a basic price of Rs 1,881 per cycle and the same was accepted, how did the government invite a particular manufacturer alone and reduced the price to Rs 1,720 per cycle.

''This clearly showed that favouritism was shown to the company,'' he said adding that if all the four firms had quoted the same price, it was only fair the government held discussions with all of them.

Mr Karunanidhi also questioned the need for the government to hurriedly issue a clarification GO in respect of sales order and issuing it in the name of Development Commissioner, instead of Finance Secretary.

''Where is the necessity for Chief Secretary N Narayanan to interfere in the matter and whether it is correct to issue a clarification GO when the tender process is on?'' the DMK leader asked.

He also asked whether it was correct if an IAS officer in the tender committee raised objection to the issue of clarification GO in the issue.

Describing the charges as bereft of facts and totally baseless, Mr Panneerselvam said the allegations, strangely in the form of queries, deserved to be condemned totally.

Mr Panneerselvam said ''What Mr Karunanidhi has raised is a minor technical point which has already been clarified in the processing of the tender itself. It is clear that this is a kite flying exercise undertaken belatedly of a tender completed in 2004-05 itself, merely to throw some dirt on a most popular scheme,'' he said.

On the clarification GO, Mr Panneerselvam said it was a general clarification applicable to all tenders so as to ensure that industries and units in the state were not adversely affected and also to protect the state's exchequor.

''This is uniformly applicable to all procurement by government and there is nothing secret about this,'' he said.

After taking note of the clarification on reckoning Sales Tax which was issued in order to benfit the state, the company located in the state and providing employment to locals, emerged as the lowest bidder.

Further, the price settled was considerably lower that that quoted -- from Rs 1,881 to Rs 1,720 per cycle. This itself proved the allegation was utterly baseless. The same procedure was followed in 2005-06.

''What exactly is Mr Karunanidhi's point itself is shrouded in confusion as what he has said only proves that what was done by the government was in the interest of the state government and benefitting the people of the stae.

In fact, his allegation only confirmed that what the government has done is totally for the benefit of the state,'' Mr Panneerselvam said.


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