At present the labour-intensive jute industry has a total installed capacity of around 29,00 sacking looms, which produce around 20.5 lakh tonnes of jute sacks. The Governmentâ€™s reported move to "completely phase out" the Jute Packaging Materials Act 1987, will have â€œnegative impactâ€ on the jute industry spread over five States, affecting about 40 lakh workers, growers and their families, said Tapan Sen, Rajya Sabha MP from CPI(M).
He further added that out of total production, domestic consumption (other than supply under JPM Act) is around 2.4 lakh tonnes; export of Indian jute sacks ranges from 80,000 to one lakh tonnes on an average, leaving 17 lakh tonnes of sacks that remain un-channelized.
Sen in his letter to Textiles Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar has urged the Government to reconsider its decision, as phasing out of jute for packaging food grains by bringing it down to 70 percent in the first instance and to zero in the process of next two/three years, and exempting sugar packaging from the Act sounds like a death knell for the industry.
Sen also requested the Minister to ensure that duty-free import of jute sacks from Bangladesh (around 1.45 lakh tonnes annually) is stopped through anti-dumping measures.
Referring to this decision reportedly taken in a meeting of â€˜Group of Officers held on October 16, based on directional observation of Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance, and conveyed to the Ministry of Textiles on November 11, Sen, who is also general secretary of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) said that the biggest irony is that the meeting of the so-called stakeholders had not included the biggest stakeholder, those who depend for their human survival on this industry, the workers and the jute growers.
The biggest beneficiary of this move would be the synthetic packaging lobby, both domestic and foreign; also, scaling down of jute sack production is directly affecting jute growers by way of the sharp decline in procurement with appropriate support price, aggravated by the dilution of reservation under JPM Act since 2009-10 for packaging of food grains and sugar.
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