Telangana Textiles and Handlooms Minister KT Rama Rao on Monday hit out against women taking to the streets in protest, against free sarees that were being distributed by the state government for the Bathukamma festival.
The free distribution of over one crore sarees for women below the poverty line for the upcoming traditional Bathukamma festival began on Monday across Telangana.
The Telangana government had said about 1.04 crore women will be given saris free of cost. The scheme costs Rs 222 crore. However, the saree distribution found itself in a row after women made bonfires of them at several places, claiming that they were of inferior quality.
Telangana IT Minister KT Rama Rao told reporters here that the government targeted to distribute about 1.04 crore sarees at over 8,000 centres in the state.
About 25 lakh sarees were distributed on the first day, he said. Hitting out at opposition parties, he alleged that Congress leaders were behind the incident of burning the distributed sarees at places like Chalgal in Jagitial district.
It is an utterly low level politics to burn the sarees, he said. "On the occasion of Bathukamma festival, all the poor women above the age of 18 will get sarees as a gift irrespective of caste, community or religion," Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao had earlier said.
District Collectors of 31 districts in the state are overseeing the sarees distribution programme, Commissioner Textiles Shailaja Rama Iyer, told reporters.
She said power-loom weavers of Sircilla in the state have woven over 50 lakh sarees measuring up to 3.75 crore metres while remaining sarees have been procured from Surat after following open competitive tender process.
"There are over 500 designs of sarees which are being distributed. Polyester sarees distribution has been taken up? we got feedback that cotton sarees should also be distributed and we are open to the feedback," she said.
Reacting to queries that some women complained and protested in few places over alleged poor quality of sarees, Iyer and Principal Secretary of the Industries Jayesh Ranjan said there is no compromise with regard to quality of sarees.
"We stand by the quality of the sarees. As per specifications the sarees have been produced and there is no problem at all," they claimed.
Iyer maintained that there is no quality issue with regard to sarees being distributed. "Sarees are inspected and also tested and there is no such quality issue. If there is any specific problem on one or two sarees we have permitted replacement. If there is any specific issue on quality we will take up the matter."
"Factories were also inspected. There are no quality issues in the saris and I want to indicate that very clearly. We stand firm by the quality of the saris that we have produced," Iyer said.
"If there is any specific quality issue with regard to specifications it can brought our notice," added Iyer. She said sari specifications of Surat are slightly different when compared to Sircilla.
On allegations that saris priced at Rs 50 were distributed, both Ranjan and Iyer dismissed the allegations and said each Sircilla sari is priced at Rs 224 while the Surat sari costs Rs 200.