THE UNION Textile Ministry is considering policy intervention, both long-term and short-term, to address the issues impeding the growth of the jute industry upon which the economy of West Bengal is highly dependent.
“We are trying to find out what can be done through long-term policy intervention to promote the sector. Separate brainstorming sessions will be held with mill owners and farmers,” Textile Secretary Rashmi Verma said after a meeting of the jute industry stakeholders chaired by Union Textile Minister Smriti Irani in Kolkata.
“A roadmap will be prepared to give a positive fillip to the sector… The government would also try to devise solutions for short-term issues affecting the sector after further detailed meetings”, she added.
The meeting was attended by the Indian Jute Mills Association, Jute Balers’ Association, trade unions, farmers body and other stakeholders. The topics of discussion ranged from closure of mills, cut-throat competition and retrenchment.
Verma said jute mills have raised issues like intense competition and cheap Bangladeshi import while jute balers said they were receiving late payments from mills, and in turn farmers’ compensation was also being delayed.
Indicating a rise in consumption of plastic, Trinamool Congress MP Sukhendu Sekhar Roy — who was present at the meeting — said that in the last two years, while production has decreased by three lakh tonnes, consumption of jute products have declined by 2.5 lakh tonnes.
“The Jute Packaging Act, which will help lakhs of people associated with the industry, should be strictly implemented… I have also asked the Centre to take a balanced approach, so that mills are not closed in the name of disciplinary action,” he said.
“The jute commissioner office has taken action against 11 mills on divergent issues of violation of the jute control order. We are not against any action but have said that government should also look into the fact that mills do not get closed,” he added.
Citing an instance, the Rajya Sabha member said the North Brook Mill remained closed and some 4,000 workers were rendered jobless. Praising Irani, Roy said “she was very positive-minded and sensitive towards the jute workers’ plight”.
A senior official of Jute Board said Irani had requested the stakeholders to come up with modernisation and export proposals for the betterment of the industry. “There are around 40 lakh jute farmers in eastern India, which means at least two crore people depend on this industry. There are about 3.5 lakh industrial workers. If the Centre wants to successfully implement its ‘Act East’ policy, the jute industry would have to be given a facelift,” he said.