Covid-19: 50 jute mills ask for permission to operate, only 5 get it in West Bengal
With the harvest season nearing, the states as well as the Food Corporation of India are now looking up to Bengal for jute sacks. Most of these mills are in Covid-19 hotspots in West Bengal.
The West Bengal government has allowed only five jute mills to resume operations, as part of the relaxation during Covid-19 lockdown. Most of these mills are located in the containment zone and need special permission from the government to resume operations.
The state government is yet to decide on the permission sought by the 45 other mills.
West Bengal, the jute hub of India, has most of its mills located along two banks of river Hooghly in the districts of North 24-Parganas, Hooghly, Howrah and South 24-Parganas. Of them, North 24-Parganas and Howrah are Covid-19 hotspots falling in the ‘red zone’. Hooghly, though in the orange zone, has declared most of its municipal areas along the river Hooghly as containment zone.
The five mills which have received permission for opening are in South 24-Parganas district.
“There are around 60-odd jute mills in the state out of which around 50 have applied to resume work. Till April 20, only five have received the permission. We are yet to receive any information about the other mills,” said Raghavendra Gupta, chairman of Indian Jute Mills Association.
“The five jute mills have been allowed to resume work with 50 workers each. This is not practical. We can at the most carry out the finishing touches required for already manufactured products and dispatch them,” said Gupta.
The Bengal government had on April 15 decided to allow the jute industry to operate with 15 per cent of its regular workforce from April 20 after multiple requests from the Centre.
Union Textiles Minister Smriti Irani had called up Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee requesting her to allow these mills to resume work. Banerjee had also received calls from chief ministers of Maharashtra and Telangana with requests to allow jute mills to resume work.
With the harvest season nearing, the states as well as the Food Corporation of India are now looking up to Bengal for jute sacks.
Requesting anonymity, a jute mill owner said, “The industry, for remaining closed during this time, may have to pay a larger cost in the future as the Centre would allow the use of plastic in large scale due to unavailability of jute sacks. Once plastic enters the sector, jute may not recover its place.”
The jute mills employ about two lakh people and each mill on an average employ around 3,000 people. Hastings Jute Mill in Hooghly district, for example, has 4,338 workers on its roll.
“But as large areas in the districts of as North 24-Parganas and Howrah have been declared as red zones where lockdown needs to be strictly implemented it is still not certain what will happen to these mills,” said a senior official of the state government.