Tainted jute mills funding jute research to avoid raid heat
India’s premier jute research body – Indian Jute Industries Research Association (IJIRA) has received questionable donations of Rs 55 lakhs from some alleged tainted jute mills. The union government has substantial control over the body that receives annual grants from it. A confidential document gathered from IJIRA files shows that Howrah, Budge Budge, Ganges and Gourishankar Jute mills had donated Rs 55 lakhs to the 80-year old jute research body. Recently Waverely jute also committed a donation.
Of them, three mills were blacklisted by the Jute Commissioner Subrata Gupta. Allegedly they were charged with supply of poor quality jute bags, diverting of government bags to private channels for more profit and engaging in illegal third party imports from Nepal and Bangladesh. While Howrah donated Rs 5 lakhs for research activities, no specific reason was given for accepting donations of Rs 30 lakhs from Ganges and Rs 5 lakhs from Gourishankar Jute. Budge Budge donated Rs 15lakhs for development of the institute.
Delta jute mills moved court alleging contempt against Gupta and his deputy Dipankar Mahato for arm-twisting them. Gupta and Mahato are government representatives in IJIRA council.
No specific guideline was laid down for utilisation of the donated funds. The matter was discussed at the 190th meeting of the IJIRA council without a solution. Recently Gupta and Mahato launched a massive clean-up drive against illegal working of jute mills and had booked 10 large jute groups like Agarpara, M.R.E.L, Ludlow, Gloster, Ganges, Kankinnarah, Premchand and Alliance for indulging in `unfair trade practices’. He also filed F.I.Rs against some of them. The state Enforcement Branch is probing into the matter. He has also booked traders and stockiest.
Recently, his office ticked off the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to probe 10 jute mills against whom he had already issued show-cause or filed FIRs.
Allegedly, donations are made to IJIRA to pacify Jute Commissioner Subrata Gupta. Being a technical person and an IIT doctorate of 1996 Gupta is a great patron of jute research with focus on non-traditional and value added diversified products.
Govt strengthens law
The government has notified twelve (12) new criterions and definition for `unfair practices’ in the jute sector. It is included in the new jute control Order of 2016. It covers matters of deceit and fraud committed by jute mills and their owners and suggested police action against them.
The previous Order of 2000 was repealed and the new provision of `unfair practice’ included in the new Order of 2016.
It has caught the jute industry unaware and has placed them on a back-foot. Jute mill owners are seeking a legal route to circumvent and by-pass the issue at all costs.
The new provision of `unfair practices’ is the latest addition to the new jute control order of 2016. This is the first time the Order empowered the jute commissioner to take police action against jute mills and their owners under Cr.Pc 1973 (2 of 1974) indulging in unfair trade.
The Order has entrusted powers with the Jute Commissioner to stop giving jute bag supply orders to mills involved in unfair practices for a period of 3 months to 2 years. Almost 95% of the jute mills survive on government orders given under the jute packaging Act of 1987.