Former Infosys CFO Mohandas Pai and three other independent trustees resign from the board of Akshaya Patra Foundation citing lack of transparency in functioning

Published : November 20, 2020 15:17 IST

Inside a mega kitchen run by the Akshaya Patra Foundation in Narsingi, Telanagana, in April. Photo: The Hindu Archives

The recent resignations of all four independent trustees from the board of the Akshaya Patra Foundation (APF) has led to several questions being raised about the financial integrity of the foundation. After the resignations of Mohandas Pai, former chief financial officer, Infosys, V. Balakrishnan, former chief financial officer, Infosys, Raj Kundur, co-founder of ChrysCapital and Abhay Jain, adviser to Manipal Education and Medical Group, the board is left only with missionaries from ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness).

The trustees said that their resignations were triggered by the lack of transparency in the functioning of an audit committee formed to look into the allegation of misuse of funds. These developments could affect the programme which provides more than mid-day meals to 18 lakh schoolchildren in 12 States across the country.

A reliable source who has been privy to the developments told Frontline: “Akshaya Patra is an independent trust. Once the audit committee decided to put out the report, it was the trigger for the resignations. For 20 years, these people [the ISKCON missionaries and the independent trustees] have been together and do you think they [the independent trustees] were unaware of all that was happening? All of this will come out in the next few days and you will see how there have been some discrepancies in the accounts. When the audit committee report was placed before the trustees, the whole problem started. There is a lot of rot inside the organisation.”

Dr Sylvia Karpagam, an activist associated with The Right to Food campaign, said: “Concerns have been raised about APF since 2009, when they were accused of siphoning off rice that was supplied through the Public Distribution System (PDS). Since then, the Parliamentary Standing Committee for the Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the Performance Audit for Mid-Day Meals, the Karnataka State Food Commission, the Joint Director (Mid-Day Meal Scheme) and several civil society organisations have been consistently raising concerns about Akshaya Patra. Apart from governance issues, APF has violated nutritional norms and also force-fed children with culturally/ ideologically driven food and they have often rejected it citing lack of taste.”

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