Modernising and reviving our jute industry

It is unacceptable that around 300 of BJMC officials have been getting regular salaries, accommodation facilities and other amenities even three years after the state-run jute mills were shut down. According to a report, while these officials are still living on the mill premises and getting full government benefits, around 70,000 employees who were laid off in 2020 have been passing their days in hardship, with their hopes of getting re-employed once the factories are reopened under private initiatives fading with each passing day. Reportedly, the corporation retained all of its officers and administrative staff – 2,517 of them in total – even after the closure, and has been spending crores on them.

Some former workers have alleged that the officials living on factory premises are getting paid for doing nothing. But the BJMC chairman has defended it, saying they are guarding valuable assets of the corporation – 1,300 acres of real estate and numerous infrastructure – and also monitoring the tender process to reopen the closed mills.

The question is, why would the BJMC need such a huge number of officials for these tasks? How justified is spending so much money on its officials – the BJMC spent Tk 140 crore to pay their salaries in the last fiscal year – when more than 15,000 of its former workers, most of them temporary, are yet to receive their dues? Most importantly, why has the corporation still not been able to reopen any of the mills, as it had promised during the closure, even after three years? Has the government forgotten the promise that the minister for jute and textile made regarding the reopening of mills and re-employment of the workers?

The lack of sincerity and accountability of its officials was also clear from the way they are doing their jobs. When our reporter visited the BJMC headquarters in Motijheel, Dhaka recently, he found that only four out of the ten officials in the production section and only a few out of around 25 officials in the marketing department were present during a work day.

By now, the BJMC should be able to have a proper plan about the workforce it needs and allow redundant officials to be reassigned elsewhere in the public sector or just go, instead of wasting resources on them. It should also expedite the process of reopening the mills with the help of private investors, as it had planned. Modernising and reviving our jute industry is the need of the hour. The BJMC must be able to do so for the sake of the country and the workers.

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