ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Reviving the Golden Fibre

Jute workers' violence is a desperate cry for help.

The Northbrook Jute Mill in Hooghly, West Bengal had been working only five-hour shifts since November 2013 and had closed operations for 40 days earlier this year. On 15 June when the company’s chief executive officer met the agitated workers to propose a three-day week considering the lack of supply orders and piled-up products, a few enraged workers beat him to death. While this version was the immediate one to be made public, there are doubts being raised about it in several quarters since. Whether the arrests and investigations provide a clearer picture remains to be seen.

West Bengal’s 55 jute mills employ around 2.5 lakh workers. The industry has, however, faced turbulent times for decades with the workers bearing the brunt. The mill owners blame lack of demand due to competition from synthetic fibres and plastic, coupled with poor implementation of the centre’s pro-jute measures for the mills functioning at less than capacity. By implication, the cut in wages flowing from reduced work hours is sought to be justified.

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