Milma rebuts allegations of irregularity in packaging ghee, milk transport

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Asif K Yusuf, Managing Director of Milma, told Manorama that a report had been over which allegations have been made: Manorama Online/File photo

Kollam: The Kerala Government has begun an investigation into the alleged irregularities in packaging ghee and milk transport by the Kerala Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation, which is better known by its trade name Milma.

Dairy Development Minister J Chinchu Rani has demanded an expeditious report on the issue. The action follows Malayala Manorama’s expose on the shady goings-on in Milma.

Asif K Yusuf, Managing Director of Milma, told Manorama that a report had been demanded on the transactions in the Thiruvananthapuram regional unit [Thiruvananthapuram Regional Cooperative Milk Producers' Union Ltd] over which allegations have been made.

Graft in ghee pouches?
It is alleged there was corruption in the awarding of contract for packaging ghee which was included in the free provision kits given by the State Government for Onam.

However, in its clarification the milk cooperative claimed ghee was packaged in pouches in a bid not to increase the price.

"At present, Milma has facilities in its three regional unions for packaging ghee only in small bottles. An expense of Rs 91 lakh and 18% GST would have to be incurred to package ghee in 22 lakh bottles of 50 ml at Rs 4.14 apiece. However, only Rs 29.34 lakh was spent for the purpose as the ghee was packaged in pouches. Each pouch-filling machine costs Rs 4 lakh," the Milma authorities said.

However, it has been found the Malabar regional unit awarded the contract for packaging ghee in 6 lakh pouches at 88 paise apiece, including GST. In the Thiruvananthapuram region, it was 97 paise per pouch and 18% GST. The condition that all contracts above Rs 5 lakh should be awarded only after floating tenders was not followed. The fact that a pouch-filling machine costs only Rs. 1.16 lakh, including GST, is proved by a bill for a machine that was bought in October last.

The above-mentioned regional unit is formally called the Malabar Regional Co-operative Milk Producers'' Union (MRCMPU).

Another irregularity
It has been also alleged that the transport of milk from places such as Mysuru, Mandya, and Chamarajnagar in Karnataka to Milma dairies in Kerala by taking a detour through the roundabout Bengaluru route caused a loss.

The cooperative, however, defended this option by claiming alternative routes were taken to transport milk from outside the State owing to the ban on transport through the forest area.

After complaints to the Milma MD over the circuitous route, a new order was issued recommending transport of milk through the shorter route. But this happened on May 23, the very day an order was issued allowing payment of bills to the tanker lorry contractors who took the Bengaluru route!

Misleading label
Another complaint is that there was a gross dereliction of duty by the dairy major as it printed the label “standard milk” on the green cover which was meant for packaging toned milk.

Milma says "toned milk measuring 500 ml with 3.5% fat and 8.5% non-fat solids is distributed in green covers. This has been made clear through a press release."

A special investigation led by Animal Husbandry and Dairy Development Principal Secretary MSivasankar has begun following this claim.

K C Joseph seeks stern action

K C Joseph, Congress leader and former Minister for Dairy Development, has submitted a letter to Minister Chinchu Rani, demanding that the source of corruption in Milma should be unearthed and stern action taken against those responsible.

Unions claim on freezers
The Milma union has, meanwhile, said that freezers were bought for starting Milma’s sales outlets in primary cooperatives. Over 75% of the freezers have been distributed.

The Malabar regional unit’s managing director has said that the appointments of plant assistants were made in accordance with the condition that 40% of the posts should be given on a contract basis to the dependants of dairy farmers. However, the statement is silent on the appointments made to the post of plant assistants in the Thiruvananthapuram regional unit.

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