Jute Industry: Raging Crisis, Roaring Profits and Plight of Workers

 When the pandemic is raging the state with all ferocity, when health system is collapsing fast, the mill owners are closing the jute mills one after another in West Bengal causing severe resentment among workers and throwing thousands and thousands of workers' out of employment. 

8 jute mills have been closed so far within a short span on the pretext of raw jute crisis. Jute industry, one of the pillars of state economy, is highly labour intensive which are run by a section of jute traders who have taken the mills on lease from some other trader / broker for a certain period of time, and their credentials are even unknown to the state labour department. 

The jute mill owners have attributed raw jute crisis and extremely high price of raw jute to the supply side crunch. They either curtail shifts from three to one or closing the mills each passing day. It is the task of the Jute Corporation of India (JCI) to look after the supply - demand side of raw jute, to take steps against hoarders- speculators who create artificial crisis only to increase the price of the raw jute and do profiteering at the time of crisis. On the other, jute owners are placing a number of anti-workers demands, like reducing shifts and workforce, deferring statutory payment (gratuity, STL), increasing workload, engaging more and more contract, casual, informal workers, et al. 

The united forum of 21Jute workers' unions operating in the state, including Bengal Chatkal Mazdoor Forum (BCMF), affiliated to AICCTU, has submitted a joint memorandum to the Labour minister of the state, Central Textile minister, Central Labour Commissioner and the Jute Commissioner to take urgent steps to reopen the closed mills, ensure raw jute supply and to put an end to this ongoing profiteering and import raw jute from Bangladesh. 

BCMF has also written a letter to the Director cum Commissioner of ESIC to initiate vaccination of all employees and their families in their workplace and workers' quarters immediately, to enforce SOP in all the jute mills, conduct awareness campaign at this time of grave crisis.