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Rivals unite in jute protest

Calcutta, Dec. 10: Trinamul and the Left Front today joined hands to pass a state government resolution against the Centre’s decision to cut down on the use of jute bags.

Last month, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs had eased rules on mandatory use of jute in packaging. Under the revised norms, jute bags must be used for 90 per cent of food grain produced till June 2014, down from 100 per cent earlier. For sugar, the limit was halved to 20 per cent.

Industries minister Partha Chatterjee said around three crore farmers and workers in Bengal, the largest producer of jute in the country, would be affected because of the decision.

“Jute is produced in 15 Bengal districts. Fifty-four jute mills are operational in the state. The lives of farmers and workers linked to the jute industry will be affected as a result of the decision. The state government cannot remain silent,” Chatterjee, also the parliamentary affairs minister, said in the Assembly.

Trinamul sources said chief minister Mamata Banerjee wanted the resolution to be passed in the Assembly to record her protest against the Centre’s move. Chatterjee said he had written to Union commerce and industries minister Anand Sharma to voice the state’s opposition to the decision.

CPM MLA Anisur Rahman said the party had “no problem in supporting the state government on issues that directly affect the people”.

“When we were in power, we had taken up with the Centre the demands of jute farmers and mill workers. Last year, we had met the state agriculture minister and requested him to ensure minimum support price for jute farmers,” said Rahman, a former minister.

On December 2, the Left had backed a government resolution against the Centre’s decision to make Aadhaar cards mandatory for subsidy on domestic LPG cylinders.

The Congress, which has been boycotting the winter session of the House, stayed away on both occasions.

The winter session has witnessed several Left and Congress boycotts and walkouts over the allegation that the government has been gagging the voice of the Opposition in the Assembly.