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Ijma chairman likely to step down

Calcutta, Sept. 5: Indian Jute Mills Association chairman R. K. Poddar is believed to be on his way out, thanks to infighting among Ijma members.

G. M. Singhvi of Chitavalsa Jute is likely to be the next consensus candidate for the post. Singhvi had earlier held the post for two terms in a row.

Poddar, who graduated from being an executive in Naihati Jute to own a jute mill by taking over Ganges Jute from the Singhanias of J.K. Organisation in the early 1990s, has expressed his intentions of not seeking an extension at Ijma’s annual general meeting next week.

Poddar became the chairman of the jute mill owners’ association in March this year in a mid-year shake-up after Sanjay Kajaria quit the post following similar infighting amongst members, over a tripartite agreement Ijma signed on wage and productivity to avoid an indefinite strike in the industry.

He was generally expected to be the consensus candidate for the chairman’s post at next week’s annual general meeting.

But Poddar, who is embroiled in various alleged irregularities with his acquisition of three jute mills—Victoria, Angus and Shyamnugger—has burnt his bridges with the rest of industry.

Although no official confirmation was available, industry sources said the Union textile ministry has initiated enquiries his modus operandi in the acquisition of the three mills. While the three mills being run by Poddar were at the centre of the enquiry by the Jute Commissioner at the behest of the textile ministry, the jute industry is worried that other mills which changed hands over the past few years might also face a similar enquiry.

The enquiry by the textile ministry was initiated following complaints by the Union labour ministry that Poddar had allegedly conspired with provident fund employees to acquire shares in the three mills. The provident fund authorities suspended two employees for the alleged conspiracy over the deal. Many in the industry believe that there could be definite case against Poddar as PF authorities would finally pin him down once it had taken punitive action against its own employees.

When contacted, Jute Commissioner S. Majumdar said the share acquisition and ownership of the mills acquired by Poddar and his associates, among others, was being investigated.

Poddar is also alleged to have evaded several crores of rupees of sales tax payment to the West Bengal government even after collecting the tax from customers.

When contacted, Poddar said, “I am not aware of any enquiries against me”. On reports that he had quit the Ijma chairman’s post, he said: “I have not resigned from the post now and I don’t know what I will do at the annual general meeting or afterwards’’.

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