Officials say there’s something fishy about prices, but add it’s not their problem as contractors have agreed to bear losses.
Onion prices may be an eyewatering Rs 70 a kilo, but the BMC has not one but three contractors willing to supply the vegetable to civic hospitals at a paltry Rs 15 a kilo.
The BMC had invited tenders in April to supply vegetables to civic hospitals and maternity homes. Five contractors responded and submitted their rates, which were lower than the rates contractors had quoted last year, and well below prevailing market rates.
BMC selected three of these five contractors – AAA Cheruvattam, Tejsons Foods and Sai Vegetable Suppliers – to supply vegetables to civic hospitals for the next year at unchanged rates. The total cost of the contract is Rs 1.65 crore.
Standing Committee member Pravin Chheda said something was fishy about the quotes rates. “The prices of all vegetable have gone up. In summer, prices will increase even further. How is contractor is ready to supply them so cheap?” Chheda asked.
Manoj Kotak, another member of the standing committee, also raised doubts. “If the contractors can supply vegetables so cheap, there might be some compromise in quality,” he said.
Additional Municipal Commissioner Mohan Adtani, however, said it wasn’t the BMC’s problem as the contractors were ready to face losses. “The contractors have to supply the right quantity at the approved rates. If they fail to do so, we will forfeit their deposits,” he said.
AAA Cheruvettam, one of the suppliers, said he has been supplying vegetables to various BMC departments for over 40 years. “When we filled the tender, the cost of the vegetables was very low. Even onions were not very expensive. Normally, we calculate the average rates of the vegetables and according quotes our rates. We will have to face losses in the first three months, but after that the rates will come down. We will be able to honour our contract and also maintain quality,” said Cheruvettam.
He added, “Why does the BMC have a problem with us quoting low rates? It is they who will profit after all. If we quotes high rates, they have problem, if we quotes low rates, that too is a problem…”
Prices of most vegetables have increased by at least 40% to 50% this year as heavy rains in rural areas such as Junnar, Manchar, Ambegaon, Narayangaon, Nashik, Satar and Sangli have hampered vegetable supply to the city. Last month, onions touched a new high of Rs70 to Rs 80 a kg on the retail market.