| Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee with chief secretary Ashok Gupta (extreme left), IDBI executive director K. Sivaprakasam and Webcon MD A. K. Mahapatra (extreme right) in Calcutta on Tuesday. Picture by Kishor Roy Chowdhury
Calcutta, March 8: Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today admitted for the first time that the jute industry can survive only if the golden fibre is blended with synthetics.
'If the industry has to survive, it should prepare a fibre which is a mix of synthetic and jute. We cannot stay away from synthetics. A technology has to be evolved for preparing a mixed fibre. We cannot say 'no' to synthetics,' he said at the silver jubilee function of West Bengal Consultancy Organisation Limited (Webcon).
Bhattacharjee's announcement has come as a pleasant surprise to the industry officials present. They said the Bengal government had always maintained that the Centre was yielding under the pressure from the synthetic lobby and was not placing orders for the hessian bags. 'Now he is talking about shifting to synthetics,' they said.
The chief minister made it clear that the trade unions will also have to accept this shift from jute to synthetics. 'They have to accept it. Their survival depends on this,' he said on the sidelines.
The state has 57 jute units and the industry is in a bad shape. The government has been trying to revive this traditional industry for quite a long time.
Bhattacharjee asked Webcon officials to develop a technology to prepare this mixed fibre.
Webcon has been assigned to prepare a model for using the land locked in the sick and closed units for commercial purposes.
'We have decided to close down some of the state-run units, which are not viable. They have huge factory areas, which we want to use commercially. We need a guideline for the exercise,' he said.
Bhattacharjee also asked Webcon to prepare a report on how to use the land under cinchona plantations spread over the Darjeeling hills to promote medicinal plants. Till date, except Dabur, nobody has shown interest in this area.
The state government is also worried about environmental pollution in the Howrah and Durgapur industrial belts.
The power stations, particularly Kolaghat and Santaldih, are also emitting pollutants. The chief minister emphasised that Webcon should make a proper study to tackle the problem.
He also invited the consultancy firm to work out a model to develop the industrial growth centres in the backward districts of Birbhum, Bankura, Malda and Dinajpur.
The Bengal government is planning to develop a logistics hub near the Kona truck terminal, the first of its kind in India. 'Two highways are connecting Kona with ports and airports. Logistically, Kona is an extremely important point in Bengal. So we would like to develop it as a hub,' said Bhattacharjee.
The government has already initiated talks with international consultants for setting up the hub.
The government has also invited private partners to develop roads in the state.