Kolhapur firm gets first ever contract for school uniform fabric

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March 04, 2024 Mumbai: State gov't awards contract to Kolhapur firm for school uniform fabric, in line with 'One State One Uniform' policy. Critics raise concerns about fabric quality and impact on small textile businesses.
Mumbai: The state government has awarded the first ever contract for procuring fabric for school uniforms to a Kolhapur-based firm, Padamchand Milapchand Jain. The move is in pursuance with the ‘One State One Uniform’ policy introduced last year, which mandated identical outfits for all students stitched by women’s self-help groups (SHGs) registered under the Mahila Arthik Vikas Mahamandal (MAVIM).

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Padamchand Milapchand Jain will supply an estimated 1.19 crore metre of fabric to cater to 44 lakh students across government schools in the state within two months, in time for the new academic year. The contract is valued at approximately ₹127 crore, ₹11 crore less than the budget estimate.

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The firm, located in Ichalkaranji, was chosen over five other contenders including the state’s own Powerlooms Corporation. Two bidders were disqualified for lacking quality reports while two others were debarred for failing to meet payment requirements.

The move marks a significant shift from the earlier practice of providing cash grants to school management committees and allowing them to procure materials and design uniforms as per their choice. Though the ‘One State One Uniform’ policy was introduced last year, it could not be implemented due to paucity of time. In November 2023, MAVIM was tasked with the stitching of uniforms through a government resolution.

The government asserted that the move would ensure better quality uniforms at lower cost while empowering women entrepreneurs. But critics questioned the quality of fabric and said the move could decimate small textile businesses and undermine students’ freedom to choose their attire.

In a letter to the chief minister, the Solapur Readymade Kaapad Utpaadak Sangh (SRKUS) said, “As per the tender document, the government is planning to provide polyester viscose fabric which is not comfortable for the students. It must be polyester cotton, which we have been using since last two decades.”

SRKUS opposed the government’s decision to provide standard lengths of fabric for stitching uniforms of students in different classes. “It will be futile to provide standard lengths of cloth material class-wise as even within a particular class, the students may have varying body sizes,” it said, wondering if SHGs had the expertise for stitching school uniforms.

Government officials, however, defended the move, citing higher rates quoted by Powerlooms Corporation and its failure to meet quality standards. Discussions are underway with MAVIM to engage SHGs for stitching uniforms, they said. “MAVIM is confident that they will be able to deliver the uniforms,” said an official.

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