| Bengal panchayat and rural development minister Surjya Kanta Mishra inaugurating the two-day jute symposium in Calcutta on Saturday. On his left is textile secretary S. B. Mahapatra. Picture by Kishor Roy Chowdhury
Calcutta, Feb. 22: The government has set up a working group to chalk out a mandate for the proposed jute technology mission. The committee will also work out the investment required for the mission, which hopes to improve the quality of the fibre and modernise the mill sector, textile secretary S. B. Mahapatra said here today.
He was speaking at the inaugural function of a two-day international symposium on jute. Mahapatra assured Bengal panchayat and rural development minister Surjya Kanta Mishra that the problems of jute sector were of national importance.
Mahapatra noted that the dismal record of modernisation and diversification by the industry had delayed setting up of the tech mission on jute. “There was no sense in improving the yield and quality of raw jute if the industry is not interested in modernising its manufacturing facilities,” Mahapatra said.
The state had proposed to transfer the cases of 32 sick jute units from BIFR to the department of industrial reconstruction for speedy recovery. A jute industry cell has been formed under the state directorate of industry and cases of each of these units are being scrutinised separately, Mishra said.
The two-day symposium organised by the Jute Manufacturers Development Council, has attracted a number of delegates from the UK, Switzerland, Nigeria, Ghana, Czech Republic, the Netherlands. These countries have found renewed interest in the biodegradable jute products for packaging food, essentially coffee beans.
G. M. Singhvi, chairman of the Indian Jute Mills Association, said nearly 50 million or 5 per cent of the Indian population was fully or partially dependent on the jute sector.
Starting from raw jute farming where four million farmers and nearly three million other farm labourers were involved in production, extraction of the fibre and the grading of jute, nearly a quarter of a million operate at various levels to make the fibre available to the mills.
The jute mills directly employ nearly two lakh people. Another two million are engaged in collection and supply of gunny bags for reuse and recycling.
Quoting the Planning Commission formula that a working person takes care of a family of nearly five persons, Singhvi said that the number of people dependent on the jute sector would be easily 50 million.
According to an Ijma estimate, a gunny bag finds several uses before finally being used in the paper industry. Singhvi said the “tremendous social cost’’ of use of synthetic bags in terms of economy and environment, especially in the context of dilution of the mandatory use of jute in food grains packaging.