Govt support could give new lease of life to golden fibre
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has recently sent 100 pairs of jute footwear for those working at Kashi Vishwanath Dham, which falls under his Lok Sabha constituency- Varanasi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has recently sent 100 pairs of jute footwear for those working at Kashi Vishwanath Dham, which falls under his Lok Sabha constituency- Varanasi. They had, for long, been performing their duties bare-footed because it is forbidden to wear footwear made with Leather or rubber in the temple premises. The same gesture could have possibly sent a strong positive signal to jute industry, reflecting his and his government's sincerity and seriousness to give a new lease of life to the golden fibre. Unfortunately, it failed to do so. On the contrary, precisely the same time, a dozen of jute mills in West Bengal, arguably the largest jute producer in the country, went for down shutters, rendering thousands of workers jobless. And all these can be attributed to concerns over raw jute.
The uncertainties and crisis over price cap on raw jute have been looming large. Indian Jute Mills Association (IJMA) has already sought the intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in relaxing the price cap of raw jute so that it is at par with the market price.
India Jute and Gondalpara Jute Mills were the last two to have gone for shut downs. And jute industry officials claimed the mills, each employing nearly 4000 workers each under the same management had been forced to close down over raw material concerns. Earlier, late last year about ten mills had taken similar steps. IJMA has also informed West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on the situation facing the industry. That's not all. The industry body in its letter to the chief minister also indicated that more mills may be forced to issue `suspension of work 'notices', if this issue is not addressed immediately. Mind you that jute industry in Bengal involves over 30 lakh jute farmers and 2.5 lakh mills workers.
The whole problem began when the Jute Commissioner had set a cap of Rs6500 per quintal for purchase of raw jute which millers claim is irrational and does not allow them to access most of the raw jute available as market prices are far above that. The Jute Commissioner, on his parts, is of the view that there is ample raw jute in the market, but hoarders are not allowing prices to come down, and fixing a ceiling price will help route supplies to mills.
Interestingly, this time round, mills are not getting adequate raw jute despite a record production. And jute industry and trade union's viewpoint is that the Centre must increase the price cap to Rs 7100-7200 per quintal considering spurt in input cost of farmers. This is the prevailing market price which is quite in line with the international pricing as well.
Amidst such claims and counter claims, the industry is suffering. And workers are the worst sufferers. The government and other stakeholders must act and act immediately. Sending jute footwear to Kashi Viswanath Temple workers is certainly a nice gesture. But bailing out the afflicted jute industry workers would possibly be an even better and even nicer gesture.