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Thursday, July 29, 2021

For idle jute mill workers,‘change’ has no meaning

Seated on a small cot in the courtyard 53-year-old Munshilal Das stares towards the desolate Worker Quarters of Wellington Jute Mill,

Written by Arindam Banerjee | Sreerampore |
April 30, 2011 3:02:05 am

Seated on a small cot in the courtyard 53-year-old Munshilal Das stares towards the desolate Worker Quarters of Wellington Jute Mill,at Rishra in Hooghly district. Established by the British in 1856 ,the oldest jute mill in the country with nearly four thousand workers now wears a deserted look after it was closed on March 19.

Situated on the banks of the Hooghly river ,Rishra is a part of the Sreerampore constituency ,which will go to polls on May 3.

Munshilal,who started working in the factory in 1977 on a daily wage of Rs 11,had slowly moved up the ranks to earn Rs 200- 250 per day. But the “sudden” closure of the factory has left him shocked. “The management didn’t maintain the machinery properly and looked at cost reduction and then blamed us for minimal production. We can vouch that our production was counted as one of the best in the district which houses most of the jute mills of West Bengal,” he says while playing with his grand daughter. The mill management cited “lack of production and indiscipline among workers” the reasons for its closure.

Govardhan Das,29,had joined work a couple of years ago. Originally hailing from Gotakhpur in Uttar Pradesh,Das had come with dreams of “earning a modest income”,of marrying a woman and exploring Kolkata,which is a hour’s drive away. “No one feels that we are important enough. Singur,Nandigram all happened for the welfare of the farmers and today we at the other end of the spectrum of the working class stand empty-handed. The elections thus does not concern us anymore. For us the real “paribortan” would be to get back to work at the mill and restore our fractured lives to normalcy,” adds 50-year-old Gobardhan Jadav,working here for the last thirty years.

The scene is not much different at the Worker Quarters opposite the India Jute Mill at Sreerampore. A small group of workers mostly in their lungis chat while sipping tea near the banks of Hooghly. Amidst the paraphernalia of festoons,banners and multi-coloured flags of political parties they remain isolated. Mostly from Orrissa,they had been permanent workers of this jute mill that was established in 1865. But this too suspended its operations for an “indefinite period” on March 19. “This is gross injustice,how can the management take away our jobs without informing us in advance,” says a worker.

Most of them have decided to abstain from voting. Seething with anger,they have bitter complaints against the complacent attitude of both the Triamool Congress and the CPM. “No political party has time for the marginals in the society. No matter they speak of ‘class struggle,workers’ rights’ or of ‘ma,mati,manush’. We only pray so that our fate does not embrace the thousands of other jute mill workers in the district,” adds Bhagirath Biswal in a pensive mood.

For Sreerampore,a town with a deep colonial past and industrial fame,the present is very much shaken. By next month when results of the elections will be declared,it remains to be seen whether these jute mill workers may have something to cheer about.

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