The bi-weekly lockdown to be imposed in West Bengal in the wake of a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases in the state is likely to affect its jute industry, which was limping back to normalcy after being hit during the nationwide lockdown, industry sources said on Wednesday.
The administration has decided to impose a twice-a- week lockdown in the state till August to stem the rise in COVID-19 cases. The state’s caseload rose to 47,030 and death toll mounted to 1,182 till Tuesday.
The state government has announced that this week’s bi-weekly lockdown will be imposed on July 23 and 25.
As per a state government notification, the jute mills’ gates will be locked and no worker will be allowed to enter or exit the premises on the lockdown days.
However, the administration has allowed the mills to function if they house the workers inside the premises before a lockdown day begins.
“Jute mills will remain closed (on lockdown days). If the factory workers are inside the premises, then the operation will be allowed,” a senior government official said.
The jute industry is not considered a ‘continuous process industry’ that requires an uninterrupted operation.
However, the government notification has created some problems for the 50-odd operational jute mills in the state.
Jute mill owners will have to incur additional costs to house the workers inside the premises. Also, there is a risk of the spread of COVID-19 among the workers if they stay together, the industry sources said.
After being shut on March 24, the jute mills were allowed to fully operate from June 1. However, the industry is facing a shortage of labour as many workers have returned to their hometowns during the lockdown, causing production to be insufficient to meet the government demand, they said.
The supply backlog was 2.5 lakh bales till May. Jute bags are procured by the government and used for packaging food grains.
Jute production is a major industry in West Bengal.
Most of the mills in the state are concentrated along the banks of Hooghly river in Howrah, Hooghly and North 24 Parganas districts.