Mumbai: Amid Criticism From Small Traders, 6 Firms Bid For School Uniforms Contract

Mumbai: Amid Criticism From Small Traders, 6 Firms Bid For School Uniforms Contract

Every year, the government provides classes 1-8 students with two free uniforms. This is the first time the state is centrally procuring an estimated 1.19 crore meters of cloth required for the uniforms.

Musab QaziUpdated: Tuesday, February 20, 2024, 10:18 PM IST
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Mumbai, February 21: Six firms are vying for the state's first-ever contract to provide fabric for uniforms of over 44 lakh students in government schools across Maharashtra. However, small textile traders have objected to various conditions in the tender. The technical bids of the six companies are currently being evaluated and the final selection of the vendor will be made according to the financial bids submitted by the firms.

Every year, the government provides classes 1-8 students with two free uniforms. This is the first time the state is centrally procuring an estimated 1.19 crore meters of cloth required for the uniforms to ensure better quality and prices. It's part of the government's new policy to provide identical blue-coloured uniforms across the state.

Women Self-Help Groups To Stitch Uniforms:

The policy will replace the current practice of providing Rs600 cash for two uniforms per student each year to the respective school management committees (SMCs), which then decide the style of the uniform and get them stitched locally. Under the new plan, the dresses will be stitched by the women self-help groups (SHGs), while the fabric will be procured from a single vendor.

An official from the Maharashtra Prathamik Shikshan Parishad (MPSP), the state body responsible to implement the Samagra Shiksha initiatives, said that they are currently in talks with the Mahila Vikas Arthik Mahamandal, a government board promoting women entrepreneurs, about involving SHGs in sewing the uniforms. “The manufacturing cost quoted by Mahamandal at the moment appears to exceed our budget. If we are unable to reach an agreement, we will have the district administration rope in the local SHGs,” the official said.

While the state had come up with the idea of identical uniforms in May last year, it was unable to implement it in the current academic year due to opposition from private vendors who had already begun manufacturing the dresses. However, the government still asked the schools to have one of the two uniforms with a standardised design and colour.

Small Traders Unhappy With Bidding Process:

Small traders believe that the bidding process is designed to favour big industrial players and will lead to the closure of hundreds of manufacturing units across the state, resulting in loss of jobs to around 50,000 skilled workers. “The terms and conditions of the bid are so oppressive that participation in it is simply impossible for the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME),” said Lalit Kumar Vaid, a member of Maharashtra Kapad Vyapari Sangh, an organisation of textile traders.

The state has claimed that the manufacturing of the uniforms will be awarded to women SHGs. However, it has not been examined if they have state-of-the-art machines and skilled manpower. The MSME that are already engaged in this sector have all these resources including machines. The government should consider this aspect, he added.

The government, however, claimed that these traders lacked the required fabric quality. “In the pre-bid meeting, we told the smaller units that we would relax some of the conditions in the tender document. However, they were unable to provide samples of their cloth for us to ascertain the quality,” said the MPSP official. Denying the claim, Vaid said, “They are trying to mislead. We were never asked for any sample.”

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