Four mobile food testing vans worth Rs 240 million left to rot on govt office premises

Published On: September 25, 2022 07:00 PM NPT By: Dilip Poudel

KATHMANDU, Sept 25: Four mobile food testing vans which the government brought for 240 million rupees four years ago have been recklessly left to rot on the premises of a government office. The government had bought four mobile vans worth Rs 60 million each . Each of these vans is equipped with laboratories to test the quality of food products after the increase in the supply of substandard food items in recent times, affecting human health in the market.

These vans have been left to rot on the premises of the Department of Food Technology And Quality Control. According to the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), five employees including the then director general of the department, Sanjiv Kumar Karna, seven employees of the seller and seven employees of the Prime Minister Agriculture Modernization Project (PM-AMP) were charged with corruption in connection with the purchase of the vans. No one has shown interest in driving these vans since the lawsuit was filed.

Consumer rights activist Madhav Timalsina said that this was the height of negligence by the officials concerned. He emphasized that such equipment purchased with the scarce resources of the state should be put into use immediately. "If they operate these vans on the eve of the festival, they will also be aware of people selling substandard food," he said. The vans have not been put into use even after all the employees, including the then Director General Karna, who was accused of corruption, were acquitted.

The Special Court acquitted them last May and directed the authorities to bring those vans into operation within three months and send the progress report. 

The stakeholders demand that the vans should be put into operation immediately even though the officials did not operate the vans citing the case pending at the court for four years.

Meanwhile, even after the court case has been concluded, the officials concerned have done nothing toward using the vans. These vans were purchased for the purpose of collecting and testing samples of daily consumer goods on the spot when the government officials go to monitor the market. 

Mohan Krishna Maharjan, spokesperson for the Department of Food Technology And Quality Control, said that although the vans were not used in the past due to the court case, this time, they are not used as the case has not been completely decided. "After the full verdict of the court, there will be a way to operate these vans," he said, "Because of the case, we did not dare to use the vans. Now we are planning to put them to use.” 

“Similarly, the technical matters related to the vans should also be taught by the seller of the vans," Maharjan said, “We will put these vans into operation after the completion of all legal procedures." The vans also have five messages on safe food written on them. Spokesperson Maharjan said that market monitoring with the help of these vans will also help in creating awareness among consumers. 

The department purchased the vans in the financial year 2017/18. The vans were imported from Italy. Out of the four vans, two were procured under the department's regular program and the two others were procured from PM-AMP. The government had planned to send these vans to Biratnagar, Dhangadhi, Bhairahawa along with the Valley and bring them into operation. The department claims that the vans are of European standards and each of the four vans is equipped with a high-tech laboratory.


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