Bags from Bengal jute mills of poor quality: Jute Commissioner
Recently he initiated a massive crack down for a ‘quality check’ of jute bags produced in all 60 operating jute mills of West Bengal shuddering jute industry.
Between 1 July and 9 August 2016, the Jute Commissioner’s Office rejected jute bags offered by 21 mills including large groups and passed bags of only 12 mills. Based on the offerings the Jute Commissioner normally issue government orders or PCO s for supply of jute bags.
The ‘corruption issue’ within jute mills was discussed threadbare at the state jute Group of Minister’s (GOM) meeting on 6 August 2016, where state representatives promised all help to Gupta, provided he had proofs to act against the jute mills.
According to a senior minister, ‘’ these are sensitive issues as the future of millions of workers are dependent on the jute mills. The state government is vouched to save the jute industry and Gupta must not look like an ‘anti-industry’ person’.
The jute industry is already flooded with allegations of supplying poor quality, re-used and illegal ‘third party supply’ of jute bags to maximize on profits by cheating the government.
Meanwhile, acting as a super regulating agency, the Jute Commissioner’s office recently started a thorough joint inspection of jute bags over and above the ‘quality vigil’ undertaken by the office of the Director General of Supplies and Disposal (DGS &D).
This forced the jute mills to withdraw over 92% of jute bags they had offered for routine inspection between 1 July and 9 August 2016 creating a possible deficit in supplies during the current Kharif agriculture season.
The jute industry is expected to receive around 8 lakh tons (21 lakh bales) of jute bag orders for packing food grains during the Kharif season.
According to industry experts, it is only out of a ‘fear psychosis’ that jute mills have withdrawn their bags for inspection, the policy being the lesser the better. The jute industry seems to be in great discomfort with the stepping in of the Jute Commissioner’s Office.
On condition of anonymity, says a mill owner, ‘’ we fully appreciate Jute Commissioner’s initiative to clean up the system. However, the way he is road rolling as a ‘supra-agency’ might create problems’’.
If jute bag supply is stopped then there would be law and order problems in almost 15 states. As per Mandatory Jute Packaging Act (JPMA 1987), each year, different state food procuring agencies and Food Corporation of India (FCI), procure jute bags to pack food grains for supplies.
In 2011-12, Madhya Pradesh faced an acute jute bag supply crisis creating a massive law and order problem.
Until now, under joint inspection from the J.C and DGSD office only 9.1 % of the jute bags offered for inspection had been cleared and around 10% of those offered rejected. High rates of withdrawal
Until now, the quality of jute bags supplied by West Bengal’s jute mills used to be checked by the DGS and D.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (C.C.E.A) recently decided that from Nov 1 2016, Jute Commissioner Office is the only authorized body to check the quality and supply of jute bags.
However, the Jute Commissioner has already initiated the process as he has been empowered to do so in the recently amended the Jute and Jute Textile Control 2016.
On 1 July 2016, the Competition Commission Appellate Tribunal (COMPAT) absolved the jute industry of all charges of price manipulation, cartelization and monopoly violations through arm twisting of its consumers.
In 2011, synthetic manufacturers had petitioned the C.C.I. with above charges against jute industry but failed to prove the allegations.