Mamata allows jute mills to resume work to meet demand for bags after Rabi harvest

Published : April 15, 2020 20:20 IST

Jute bags at a market in Kolkata. Photo: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury

The jute industry of West Bengal was finally granted some relaxation from the lockdown by the State government after repeated appeals from the Centre and industry representatives. The State government’s decision came after it received a letter from Union Women & Child Development and Textiles Minister, Smriti Irani, requesting Chief Minister Mamata to allow a minimum of 18 jute mills to resume operations. Mamata, however, has allowed all the mills to resume operations, but on the condition that each mill use 15 per cent of its workforce a day and adhere to the COVID-19 protocols.

“It would be injustice to the workers of the rest of the mills, if we just allow 18 to start operations. So we have allowed all the mills to start working, but using 15 per cent of the workforce and maintaining all protocols. The time for harvesting Rabi crop is approaching and there are no jute bags anywhere. Punjab had called, Telengana had called, the Central government has been calling repeatedly, but we must be careful that the virus does not spread,” said Mamata at a press conference on April 15.

There are 61 operational jute mills in the State that has a total capacity to produce around 3,000 tonnes of jute goods daily. Even though the jute industry falls under the Essential Commodities (E.C.) Act, the government had not allowed these mills to continue with their operations.

On April 13, Smriti Irani had written to Mamata requesting her to allow manufacturing and supply of jute bags “for packaging food grains of Rabi Marketing Season (RMS) to help ease procurement operations of the government at this critical juncture”. “A list of required basic minimum number of jute mills (18 jute mills) have been worked and sent to the State Govt. These 18 mills will be asked to put only 25 % of workers on roaster basis,” the letter said.

The State government’s decision has come as a big relief to 2.5 lakh workers in the jute industry, who were facing distress with the mills being shut since lockdown was declared by the State government on March 23, a day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19.

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