To clean up the tainted jute bag supply system, the government has decided to carry out jute bag testing and inspections under CCTV surveillance inside jute mills.
A 31 point `Inspection Protocol’ to monitor and regulate the jute industry has been prepared. Jute mills defaulting or not adhering to the Inspection Protocol (IP) would be severely fined. The IP will be implemented through a newly developed software portal christened B-SMART or B Twill Supply Management and Requisition Tool.
Kolkata- based company CONACENT and a team of IIT software experts had developed the software portal.
As per protocol, jute mills will have to compulsorily install CCTVs where testing and inspections are carried out. The government had booked a few jute mills for supplying poor quality jute bags.
The defaulting mills will have to pay 10 times the cost of inspection of jute bags and 20% of inspection fee for every hour of inspection delay. Details of each mill will be uploaded on the government portal.
The inspection protocol has created a furore within the jute industry. Jute owners’ body Indian Jute Mills Association (IJMA) is split on the issue with some owners holding views that ``now all of us are made to look like thieves’’.
Recently, the government empowered the Jute Commissioner’s office to manage jute bag supplies taking it away from the hands of the Director General of Supplies and Disposal (DGSD) under the Food and Supplies Ministry.
Contacted Jute Commissioner Subrata Gupta said, `` the inspection protocol and surveillance will serve three purposes a) curbing unfair trade practice, b) reduce government losses and c) scientific and random sampling of jute bales’’.
In each agriculture season the government purchases around 8 lakh tons of jute bags from jute mills for packing food grain and sugar valued at around Rs 8000 crore. At present jute bag prices are around Rs 72000 / ton. The price of single jute bag is Rs 41 in comparison Rs 22 per plastic bag.
Under the new inspection protocol a financial penalty would be imposed on mills depending on the nature of charge.
If a mill cancels an inspection call or partially withdraws it after inspection is finished then it will have to pay 10 times the cost of the inspected and withdrawn lot of jute bags. The charge is similar if a consignee rejects or complaints against the jute mill.
There are 60 odd jute mills in the state employing over 2.5 lakh workers. Its annual production is around 16 lakh tons of jute goods of which jute bags are around 12 lakh tons.