Cancerous footwear row: CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s foot-in-mouth moment
With the elections around the corner, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s ‘good deeds’ seem to have taken a turn for the worse. Cancerous footwear was allegedly distributed to 8.5 lakh tribal tendu-leaf pluckers in Madhya Pradesh that came to light after a report by Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI) asserted that the insole of a batch contained carcinogenic azo dyes.
On May 20, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan launched the Charan Paduka Yojana, a scheme under which shoes and slippers are provided to men and women, respectively, the distribution of which began two days later. The CLRI received samples for mandatory testing on June 11. The CLRI, an institute that works under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), in a June 27 report stated that “except azo content” in the insole of “gents’ casual canvas walking shoes”, everything was alright with the samples.
Forest Minister Gaurishankar Shejwar admitted, “2 lakh shoes were rejected for containing excess azo dye and another 33,000 for lack of quality. The shoes and slippers were purchased through Madhya Pradesh Laghu Udyog Nigam by following due tender process. The state minor forest produce federation set a target of distributing shoes to 11.23 lakh men and 11.11 lakh slippers to women and 22.35 lakh water bottles and so far 8.14 lakh shoes and 10.2 lakh slippers have been distributed.”
He went on to claim that the footwear distributed to beneficiaries did not contain any harmful chemicals because they had been tested prior to distribution by the Footwear Design and Development Institute, Noida, and CLRI, Chennai.
“A pre-delivery test is also conducted by one institution. He said the company was not paid for the rejected shoes. It has been asked to replace the inner sole and the shoes will be distributed only after they are examined by the central institute”, he added.
Former union minister and PCC chief Kamal Nath has demanded a high-level probe and said, “The government should recall all footwear from beneficiaries. The government should come clean on the details of the tender process and make public the names of companies that participated and won the bid. The probe report should focus on how many beneficiaries got the footwear and whether the company has been blacklisted.”
Congress left no stone unturned to call the chief minister out on his harmful gesture. In a press conference held in Bhopal state media president of Congress, Sobha Oza informed about the ill effects of using the footwear.
She alleged that the MP government is trying to conceal information about the reality of the footwear. She asked, “Why is it that till date CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan had not spoken any word about the footwear?” Congress will get the footwear given to tendu-leaf pluckers tested from an independent lab.
The political party will then take legal steps pertaining to the report. She went on to ask, “What steps have government taken against any footwear manufacturer that has been found to be using any banned chemical?” She alleged that in huge corruption have taken place in the distribution of footwear, “A union minister’s son, hailing from MP has a partnership in the company which had supplied the footwear.”
State office bearer of the tribal wing of Congress Ajay Shah informed, “From next week, tribals will collect footwear at the block level and will return it to the forest department, if the CM did not apologises for his wrong doing.” Representatives of various tribal communities from Raisen district also participated in the press conference.
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