Government failing to resolve Jute mill workers’ demands
Yesterday was the 11th consecutive day of countrywide strike carried out by workers of the state owned jute mills under the Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC). Labourers are grumbling in places where strike has not been imposed, therefore they may join to the standoff, exacerbating the situation. The lingering protest has been revealing many unfavourable realities about the jute industry of the country.
During the strike, jute mill workers blocked railways and highways in several places across Bangladesh while observing a four-hour shutdown every day. Their demands include setting up a wage commission, immediate payment of due gratuities and a provident fund.
However, in the past decade, the government allotted at least Tk 7,477 crore to address the jute industry's financial woes. Unfortunately, BJMC still depends on government allocation to pay arrear wages of its 32,740 workers and employees, which require at least Tk 337 crore. The jute industry is lagging far behind from becoming self reliant.
Allegedly, corruption, inefficiency of workers and employers, back-dated technology, presence of ghost workers and the absence of competition are mainly responsible for this miserable state of the state-owned-corporation. Lackadaisical attitude of the top brass of the corporation is hugely responsible for the current situation--since, accountability for all their actions is missing, and they are not under constant monitoring.
Moreover, numerable internal setbacks have slowed down production and qualities of goods are poor: lack of modernisation, buying of low quality jute with a high price and the increasing number of useless looms continues to wreak havoc. Currently 4,452 out of 10,835 looms in the mills under the BJMC are in operation while most of the looms and machineries are bought before the liberation of Bangladesh which causes higher production cost and low rate of production. It is true that the losses have accumulated overtime and it is not possible to turn the organisation into a profitable one overnight. Recent statistics shows that in the first nine months of this fiscal year, its losses stood at Tk 495 crore, which has already overshot last fiscal year's losses of Tk 466 crore.
To bring back the golden days of jute, authorities concerned should take rigorous measures to stop all types of corruptions, related to this industry. Jute industry high-ups should be held accountable. Diversity should be introduced in jute products, so to create national and international demands. Cutting-edge technology should be introduced in the jute mills by replacing backdated machines.
Most importantly, the government must put an end to this crisis by relying on pragmatic conflict resolution techniques. A stopgap measure won't be much effective in the long run.