The Chief Secretary,
Government of Karnataka,
Sub: Regarding Institution of a Enquiry into possible misuse and diversion of governments funds meant for Mid-day Meals Scheme by ISKCON-linked Akshaya Patra Foundation
We, the undersigned, who are members of various civil society groups working on the issue of malnutrition amongst women and children, are writing to bring to your notice the recent revelations by the media about possible misuse and diversion of government funds meant for Mid-day Meals Scheme by ISKCON-linked Akshaya Patra Foundation.
Media outlets have reported that an internal audit with Akshaya Patra Foundation has found evidence of that “usage of funds from Akshaya Patra for capital expenditure by related entities (temple trusts).” It has also been reported that the internal audit has raised questions about “whether grains and other materials that are supposed to be used for Akshaya Patra are being diverted elsewhere”. Reportedly, the internal audit also remarks that “Usage of the kitchen including movement, storage, consumption of goods, movement of people, movement/use of assets in and out of the kitchen for the benefit of Temple Trusts is not an appropriate application of the funds of the Foundation”. The Internal audit report itself admits that APF ‘is liable to scrutiny by the Tax authorities for the exemption claimed by the Foundation on the donations received’.
Further, it has been reported that “At least half of Akshaya Patra Foundation’s (APF’s) more than 52 kitchens across 21 states have indulged in foodgrain and fund diversion”. The media reports state that there have been several whistleblower complaints in the past about instances of impropriety and “after due investigation, in almost all cases, it has been established that there have been wrongdoings on the part of unit presidents and /or other missionaries“. Reportedly, the inaction by the organization prompted resignation of several trustees.
Akshaya Patra Foundation is a major recipient of government funds under the Mid-day Meal Scheme. As per the Financial Statement submitted by the Foundation, for the Financial Year ending in March 2019, Akshaya Patra Bangalore Branch alone received financial assistance from government sources worth Rs 34 crores in the form of both grants as well as subsidies. The revelations made in the media reports cited above raises serious concern regarding diversion and misuse of government funds by Akshaya Patra Foundation. Since Akshaya Patra Foundation receives substantial funds from international donors, possible violations of provisions under Foreign Contribution Regulation Act and Rules thereunder also needs investigation.
In fact, the Report of the 4th Review Mission, Karnataka, on the Mid-day Meal Scheme undertaken by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India raised various concerns in regard to the manner in which Centralized Kitchens, and especially Akshaya Patra was functioning, including in regard to the manner in which funds were raised. The same is extracted under:
“6.1.4 Funds raised by Akshaya Patra: The team observed that Akshaya Patra Foundation is raising funds through donations for implementation of Mid-day meal. As per the calculations provided by Akshaya Patra the average cost of each meal is Rs. 6.03 while the average cost provided by the state Government is Rs. 4.14, hence Akshaya Patra needs to raise Rs. 1.89 to cover the costs for each meal. The team despite requesting for records on the donations received for Mid-day Meals was not provided with the relevant information.”
This is a very serious issue which has grave impact on children. A recent news report appearing in the New Indian Express also shows that the pandemic and its effects may have worsened hunger and pushed many children across the state into starvation.
Hence, we demand that:
- An impartial inquiry be instituted in this matter against Akshaya Patra Foundation, and if charges of misuse and diversion of government funds and violations of FCRA are found to be true, criminal proceedings should be initiated against the organization.
- Pending this inquiry, all contracts with Akshaya Patra Foundation should be cancelled and no disbursal of government funds under any scheme should be permitted.
- The New Indian Express, “Akshaya Patra fund misuse: Now, civil society members want probe“, Nov 25, 2020.
- The News Minute, “TNM Impact: Civil society groups ask K’taka govt to probe funds misuse in Akshaya Patra“, Nov 25, 2020.
- The Hindu, “Nine activists demand enquiry into Akshaya Patra“, Nov 24, 2020.
- The Times of India, “Karnataka: Forums seek impartial probe into Akshaya Patra funds“, Nov 25, 2020.
- The Frontline, “Akshaya Patra Foundation under the scanner” Dec 18, 2020.