Budget for reopening of closed jute and sugar factories required

Rights activists are holding a seminar to present their proposed budget to protect the country’s basic industries, including jute and sugar factories, at the Dhaka Reporter’s Unit on Saturday. — New Age Photo

Politicians, academics and labor leaders at a seminar in Dhaka on Saturday demanded the allocation of funds in the upcoming budget for the financial year 2022-23 for the reopening of closed nationalized jute and sugar mills.

It was possible to operate the 26 jute mills nationalized and the six sugar mills closed by the Awami League government.

Sramik, Krishak, Chhatra Janata’s unit organized the seminar in Dhaka Reporter’s Unity which was chaired by Shahidul Islam, the union leader of a closed jute mill.

Veteran labor leader and Trade Union Center chairman Shahidullah Chowdhury said the government closed all 26 nationalized jute mills two years ago under Covid and then closed six nationalized sugar mills without any justified reason.

The closed jute and sugar mills could still be operated profitably if the government took certain measures, which could save unemployed workers from the mills.

He asked for a special allocation in the next budget to operate closed nationalized factories.

Maha Mirza, a professor at the University of Dhaka, and Moshahida Sultana, another professor at the University of Dhaka, read two separate keynote presentations on closed jute and sugar factories.

Maha Mirza said it was possible to run 26 state-owned jute mills profitably if the government took steps to modernize the mills.

Moshahida Sultana also said the government could manage the six closed sugar factories by upgrading machinery.

Anu Muhammad, Professor and Economist at Jahangirnagar University, said that the demand and use of jute products is increasing in our country and globally because jute products are environmentally friendly.

Then there was no reason for the government to shut down state-owned jute mills, which rendered several hundred thousand people jobless, Anu said.

He called on political parties and labor law bodies to lead a united movement to reopen factories.

He also demanded the continued allocation of money in the next budget for the reopening of closed state-owned jute and sugar mills.

Mr. M. Akash, a professor at the University of Dhaka and an economist, also said that it is possible to operate state-owned jute mills without any loss by taking certain government measures.

He also called on the unemployed to step up their movement for the reopening of factories.

Bangladeshi Samyabadi coordinator Andolan Shubhrabgshu Chakrobartty said the Awami League government was an autocratic government that favored the interests of the looters.

Protham Alo’s deputy editor, Sorhab Hassan, said that when the government shut down state-owned jute mills, it had to shut down BJMEA and BJMC.

He demanded the formation of a mass commission to find the cause of the losses in the state-owned jute mills.

Ganosamhati Andolan chief coordinator Zonayed Saki said that without a change in the governance system, workers’ rights would not be established.

Faiezul Hakim, secretary of the Jatiya Mukti Council said the Awami League government had stripped workers of state-owned jute mills of their rights.

Labor leader and Socialist Labor Front chairman Razequzzaman Ratan said it would be possible to get 26 closed jute mills working again if the government gives an allocation of Tk 1.5 thousand crore in the next budget.

Muhammad Tanjimuddin Khan, a professor at the University of Dhaka, hoped the workers’ movement would continue until the jute mills reopened.

Some jute mill workers from all over the country also spoke at the seminar.

Rachel J. Bradford