Bengal government took the decision to allow jute mills in the state to work at their full strength from the first day of the coming month.(PTI Photo/Representative use)
Bengal government took the decision to allow jute mills in the state to work at their full strength from the first day of the coming month.(PTI Photo/Representative use)

Mamata govt allows full strength at jute mills within hours of PMO’s letter

Centre had impressed upon the Bengal government the need to scale up jute bales production in the light of the peak demand by states producing foodgrains.
Hindustan Times, Kolkata | By Tanmay Chatterjee | Edited by Abhinav Sahay
UPDATED ON MAY 29, 2020 11:12 PM IST

A letter from the office of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday morning played a key role in persuading West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee to let jute mills in the state operate with full workforce from June 1.

Banerjee made the announcement around 5 pm on Friday afternoon, hours after Bhaskar Khulbe, advisor to PM Modi, shot the letter to chief secretary Rajiva Sinha. HT is aware of the contents of the letter.

“I would request you to kindly consider assisting the jute mills in reaching the assured production of 10,000 bales per day as early as possible and definitely by June 15. We shall appreciate your feedback by June 4 to enable us to further review the matter on June 8,” said the letter. State government officials did not want to comment on the letter.

Since April, the Centre has been urging the Bengal government to direct jute mills to resume operation in view of the shortage in supply of packaging materials. In a earlier letter, the Centre said, “Procurement operations of foodgrain, for which the availability of packaging material like jute bales are immensely required by major procuring states like Punjab, Harayana, Uttar Pradesh and Madya Pradesh where procurement operations will begin from April and peak season is for only two-three weeks only.”

On April 5, Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao requested the Prime Minister to open jute bag manufacturing units in Bengal and ensure transportation of jute bags through special goods trains to his state. Rao told Modi that there was a severe scarcity of bags and Telangana needed 20 crore jute bags to procure paddy.

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The Bengal government initially allowed some mills to start production with 15 per cent workers and increased the number to 50 per cent in phases. Indian Jute Mills Association (IJMA), the apex business chamber for India’s jute industry, however said that with such a limited workforce it was not possible to meet the demand for jute bags across India.

“You are well aware that I have made a request to the Hon’ble Chief Minister for allowing IJMA to deploy full workforce in the 59 functional mills of West Bengal so that they are able to attain the daily production capacity of 10,000 bales per day by June 15, 2000. She had kindly agreed to consider their request with due empathy,” Khulbe wrote to Sinha on Friday.

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“IJMA has also appealed to you to allow them to operate at full strength, committing to abide by the social distancing and safety guidelines and mobilizing their workforce immediately,” Khulbe wrote.

The letter said that the inability of the jute mills to meet the requirement would not only be detrimental to the interest of jute farmers and industrial workers in Bengal but also dilute the purpose behind mandatory use of jute which is environment friendly.

The government’s decision to allow mills to operate with full workforce was welcomed by the industry. “We welcome the development. There is huge scarcity of jute bags in several states. It is good that Mamata Banerjee took the decision,” said R K Poddar, a senior IJMA member.

Incidentally, the jute industry has suffered a nationwide loss of Rs 1,250 crore during the lockdown.

“The jute Industry is grappling for survival after being in lockdown for over one and a half months now. Already 1.5 lakh metric tonnes of production of jute goods has been lost, estimated at Rs1,250 crores. With the cash flows drying up, jute mill companies are finding it extremely difficult to make ends meet,” IJMA said in a statement on May 19.

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