The Congress hit out at the BJP-led Madhya Pradesh government for allegedly supplying shoes lined with a "cancer causing chemical" to tendu leaf collectors as part of its Charan Paduka Yojana.
Madhya Pradesh Forest Minister Gaurishankar Shejwar said two lakh samples had been rejected after excess azo dye was found in the inner sole.
Citing media reports which stated that the Central Leather Research Institute had confirmed the presence of an organic compound called "azo dye" in the inner sole of some of the footwear, the Congress demanded an inquiry into the issue.
Azo dyes which were used for dyeing fibres, leather, plastic besides food items and were banned by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in 1997 after it was found to be carcinogenic.
The Madhya Pradesh government has so far distributed footwear to 8.14 lakh men and 10.20 lakh women tendu leaf collectors as part of the scheme.
In a tweet on Friday, Madhya Pradesh Congress chief Kamal Nath accused the state government of playing with their lives.
"It is a cause of concern that the lakh of tendu patta collectors belonging to tribal community were distributed shoes laced with cancer causing chemical, according to CLRI testing," his tweet claimed.
"No one has the right to play with the lives of these people. How these shoes and slippers were distributed without testing? Who is responsible," Mr Nath's asked.
He issued a statement demanding that the shoes distributed to the tendu leaf collectors be taken back and also called for details of their purchase and distribution.
Reacting to the controversy, the state forest minister said, "Two lakh shoes out of the samples sent for testing have been rejected after excess amount of azo dye was found in the inner sole. No payment has been made so far to the company."
Mr Shejwar said the firm had been ordered to change the inner sole and once this is done, the footwear would be re-examined by central government laboratories.
"Prior to their distribution, quality testing is essentially conducted by two prestigious institutes of the country, the Footwear Design and Development Institute, Noida and Central Leather Research Institute, Chennai. A pre-delivery test is also conducted besides a re-test before distribution," Mr Shejwar said.
He reiterated the shoes that were distributed were of good quality.
He said the Madhya Pradesh Minor Forest Produce Federation has set a target of distributing shoes to 11.23 lakh men, slippers to 11.11 lakh women and 22.35 lakh water bottles to tendu leaf collectors under its Charan Paduka Yojana.
Besides, the state government was also distributing 11.9 lakh sarees to the women tendu patta collectors.
Follow NDTV for latest election news and live coverage of assembly elections 2019 in Maharashtra and Haryana.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram for latest news and live news updates.