Two jute mills in the Hooghly district of India’s West Bengal state on Sunday announced they were temporarily suspending operations, citing falling demand and putting more than 7,000 people out of work.
It’s the latest in a string of closures in the area that have rendered at least 50,000 jute workers unemployed in the last two months, according to local media reports.
News of the stoppages came just one day after Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi visited the region and assured jute workers that he would share their concerns with parliament. “I am with you all whether you are a jute mill worker, a farmer or from the weaker section of society,” Gandhi was quoted as saying in The Hindu.
Northbrook Jute Co. Ltd. and India Jute Mill have roughly 4,000 and 3,500 employees respectively. The workers claim they did not receive sufficient notice prior to the closures.
An India Jute Mill management official told the Telegraph, “Over the last month, the mill had to be closed twice because employees did not turn up, protesting our refusal to take back eight workers.” A Northbrook representative also mentioned uncooperative staff.
West Bengal, once a hub for jute production, has been plagued of late by high raw material prices as well as a lack of demand for finished goods, and the industry is only forecast to increase at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 0.1 percent over the next 10 years.
Northbrook was temporarily closed last year following the murder of the mill’s CEO by workers when he rejected their demand for an increase in weekly working hours. A further five mills suspended operations following the incident.