Kolhapur Firm Wins School Uniform Bid Amid Stitch-Up Claim

Kolhapur Firm Wins School Uniform Bid Amid Stitch-Up Claim

The work will be awarded at a cost of around Rs 127 crore, which is Rs 11 crore less than the price estimated by the government.

Musab QaziUpdated: Saturday, March 02, 2024, 09:51 PM IST
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Kolhapur Firm Wins School Uniform Bid Amid Stitch-Up Claim | IANS

Amid objections from textile companies and political opposition, the Maharashtra government has chosen a Kolhapur-based firm to award its first-ever contract for centrally procuring cloth for school uniforms.

Padamchand Milapchand Jain, headquartered in the textile town of Ichalkaranji, has been picked from among six bidders, including the state’s own Powerlooms Corporation, who were in the fray to provide an estimated 1.19 crore metres of fabric for the uniforms of 44 lakh students in government schools across the state. The work will be awarded at a cost of around Rs 127 crore, which is Rs 11 crore less than the price estimated by the government.

Work Order

A work order will likely be issued in a couple of days and the company will have to ship the cloth to talukas across the state within two months, before commencement of the new academic year.

According to an official from the Maharashtra Prathmik Shikshan Parishad (MPSP) under the school education department, only two out of six firms were found to qualify for the competitive bidding process; the others were rejected on technical grounds. Of the rejected bidders, two had failed to pay the earnest money deposit (EMD), while the remaining two didn’t submit the quality reports of their production facilities and the product. The fifth bidder lost for quoting a relatively higher price – Rs 148 crore.

Two free uniforms

All the students in classes 1-8 at government schools are provided with two free uniforms through the central and state government funds. Until now the state would provide cash – Rs 300 for per uniform per student each year – to school management committees (SMCs) of the respective schools, which then decide the style of the uniform and get them stitched locally.

However, the practice is being replaced by the government’s new policy of having identical uniforms for all students. While the fabric for the uniforms will be procured from a single vendor, the garments will be stitched by women’s self-help groups (SHGs) across the state.

Better quality clothes

While the government said that this policy is aimed at providing better quality clothes at lower cost, and empowering women entrepreneurs, small textile traders who have been involved in the uniform manufacturing business believe that it will be a death knell for several units and lead to job losses. Some experts have also argued that instead of imposing same uniforms, schools and students should be allowed to decide the make of their dresses.

Last week, Samajwadi Party MLA Rais Shaikh accused the government of favouritism, alleging that some of the conditions for prospective bidders in the tender document – productivity of minimum one lakh metres per day, three-year turnover of over Rs 55 lakh – favour large textile manufacturers from outside the state. In a letter to Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, he demanded that MSPC be made the nodal agency for procurement.

However, the government official said MSPC had quoted a rate of Rs 245 for fabric and an additional Rs 144 for stitching of one uniform, exceeding the state’s budget, or Rs 300. The cloth samples made available by the corporation had also failed to meet the standards laid down by the Textiles Committee under the Union Ministry of Textiles, claimed the official.

The government is now in talks with Mahila Vikas Arthik Mahamandal, a government board promoting women entrepreneurs, to rope in SHGs for stitching the garments. “The body is confident that they will be able to deliver the uniforms,” said the official.

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