The Directorate General of Supplies and Disposal (DGS&D) under the Union ministry of food and agriculture has accused seven jute mills in West Bengal of supplying sub-standard jute bags in the current Kharif season to the Punjab government.
Most of these mills are members of Indian Jute Mills Association (IJMA), the apex body of the jute industry in the country.
According to a DGS&D source, the accused mills are –Victoria, Ganges, Tirupati, Howrah, Reliance, Bally and Kelvin jute mills.
After conducting preliminary inspection, the DGS&D found that these mills had supplied sub-standard gunny bales with dimensional defects and poor weaving. The samples are currently lying at the Vigilance Office of Ludhiana (Punjab). An inquiry has been ordered and a joint inspection team will soon review the situation.
However, Manish Poddar, chairman of IJMA denied the allegations. “IJMA has not received any such complaint and none of our association members are supplying sub-standard jute bags”, he said.
It is not for the first time that jute mills have been accused of supplying inferior quality materials. Earlier also the Government of India had carried out investigation into such type of developments and had warned the jute industry.
A few months back, the Union textiles ministry had identified 33 rogue mills that defaulted on their supply commitment of over 41000 bales of gunny to Punjab and sold their materials at higher prices in the market.
During the current Kharif season, the food ministry had indented around 1.4 million bales of gunnybags for different state procuring agencies and Food Corporation of India (FCI). Of them Punjab was the highest indenter.
This year due to bad harvest and shortfall in crop production, there has been a shortage in supply. IJMA, however, is pushing matters with its 41 members for keeping Kharif supply commitments by December 2010.
West Bengal has 52 operating jute mills and a work force of around four lakh consisting of pay roll, tertiary and subsidiary sectors. Eight mills are closed of which five are in the public sector. The jute industry’s current annual production is around 1.6 million tonnes with a turnover of around Rs 8000 crore. The government purchase is almost 40 per cent in every agriculture season for food grains and sugar packing.