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Jute industry: Out of 73 jute mills in the country 59 are in West Bengal, providing employment to 2,00,000 workers directly,

and approximately 40 lakh jute growers are also dependent on this industry. Of these 59 mills, 5 mills are run by National Jute Manufacturing Corporation (NMJC) Limited and one by the Government of West Bengal. Of late, this industry has been witnessing widespread workers unrest against the most barbaric repression of the jute barons. Lockout was declared in 17 mills and only 10 have been reopened. Out of these ten, in some mills, the management forced the unions to agree to very adverse terms and conditions to lift the lockout. Again, in some mills, wages were reduced for all categories of workers. The entire jute industry is undergoing a structural change. Restructuring and reorganizing the jute industry is the strategic aim of the jute barons. By dismantling the existing wage structure and recomposing the existing workforce, the jute barons are engaging a large number of new workers with very low wages sans statutory benefits like PF, ESI, gratuity etc. The three-decade old pattern of workers composition, viz. permanent, special badli and badli, achieved after numerous struggles is fast eroding and the innumerable day-labourers called vouchers are emerging as the main component of the workforce and they are becoming the determining factor in both production and movement. The emergence of this highly backward, almost medieval, production relation coupled with drastic reduction in man-machine ratio is the source of all movements in recent times. The NJMC Ltd. runs five mills in West Bengal and one in Bihar. The production in these mills has been adversely affected due to non-supply of raw jute and other inputs as the Government of India has curtailed budgetary support for this purpose, resulting in increase in its losses. The workers and staff are not getting their wages and salaries in time. The statutory liabilities of this corporation as on 1-1-2001 are as follows: provident fund and pension dues approximately Rs. 55.64 crore, ESI dues Rs.17.63 crore, tax dues Rs. 1.16 crore, salary and wage dues Rs.17.51 crore (wages of three fortnights due to the workers and salaries for two months due to officers and staff), and gratuity dues of about Rs. 5.94 crore to 702 workers. The Union Ministry of Textiles has declared before the BIFR, at its hearing on 27th June, that they were relinquishing their control and responsibility over NJMC, thereby paving the way for closure in near future. The jute barons have not deposited their PF and ESI contribution and a large number of retired workers have been deprived of their gratuity. Total PF, ESI and gratuity arrears till December 12, 2000 were Rs. 144.7 crore, 86.78 crore and 100 crore respectively.