Mumbai: BMC students from Std I to X yet to get notebooks

Updated: Jul 01, 2019, 07:21 IST | Chetna Sadadekar | Mumbai

Civic body withholds 38 lakh books 'as they are of poor quality'; contractor moves HC saying notebooks were tested by a water-testing lab!

Sunraj Printpack Industries has its stock ready for dispatch if the court rules in its favour
Sunraj Printpack Industries has its stock ready for dispatch if the court rules in its favour

While the new academic year has already begun, students at civic-run schools across the city are yet to receive the notebooks that the BMC administration provides them every year. One of the bidders for the contract of providing 38 lakh notebooks for students from Std I to X has approached the Bombay High Court alleging that the BMC fraudulently and abruptly rejected his notebook samples to enable two other bidders' contracts.

He claimed that the civic body got the samples tested in a laboratory at Jogeshwari that checks water and has no expertise in checking paper quality. The bid was then rejected without any explanation by the BMC, the company claimed.

The MSME report sent to Sunraj Printpack Industries after the retest
The MSME report sent to Sunraj Printpack Industries after the retest

The BMC gives 28 school items to about three lakh municipal school students every year. This kit consists of uniform, shoes, raincoats, books, water bottles among others. While all other items are taken care of, the notebooks are still stuck owing to the matter being under litigation.

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The tender that was floated by the Central Purchase Department in February received three bidders, and after negative results came out for Sunraj Printpack Industries, the bidder approached the court in April. It has since then claimed that the BMC is hand in gloves with the other bidders. The company, its owners allege, was given no reason by the BMC in rejecting its bid. They were not told of exactly what was wrong with their books.

The BMC every year provides students of municipal schools with a kit that includes uniform, shoes, raincoat etc. Representation picture
The BMC every year provides students of municipal schools with a kit that includes uniform, shoes, raincoat etc. Representation picture

Sunraj Printpack Industries co-owner Rajesh Nahar said, "Despite offering the lowest bid, we were not even considered. They got our notebooks tested at a laboratory which is not even accredited with the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories and is generally referred for checking water quality. I had approached the higher authorities at the BMC stating the entire issue but no one paid any heed and thus I had to knock the doors of the High Court. We are now waiting for its orders."

At the hearing on June 6, the high court upheld that the laboratory was not equipped to test the samples of textbooks or notebooks. The books should have been tested by laboratories that have the experience and expertise of testing notebook samples, it said. The court thus asked the BMC to check the notebook samples again. The government-run laboratory MSME testing centre at Saki Naka then re-tested the books and "gave a positive report," the bidder said.

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BMC awaits HC order
While the case is still pending at the high court, the BMC said that it will abide by the court's ruling. Meanwhile, corporators, at standing committee meetings, have been asking the administration not to delay delivering school items as the academic year has already begun.

Prakash Charate, deputy education officer, said, "Majority of the school items will be given to the students by July 15, and we will take a decision on the notebooks after the court orders."
Additional Municipal Commissioner Ashwini Joshi, who is responsible for the Central Purchase Department, said, "We do not want to comment on this as the issue is subjudice, and we will act as per the court's directives."

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