Despite the jute
sector’s attempt at paying wages to 250,000-odd workers
through electronic transfer to their bank accounts, a section of the workers
are likely to face hardship as they don’t have bank accounts. Even those with bank accounts insist on receiving payment through cash
as they don’t want to go through the trouble of queuing up at bank ATMs to withdraw money.
“We have attempted to overcome the prevailing crisis by crediting wages to the workers' bank accounts. But, the jute workers
want lump sum wages on a fortnightly basis. The present limit on cash
withdrawal at banks will not ease their woes,” said a mill owner, who did not wish to be identified.
On an average, a jute
worker gets Rs 400 a day. 80% of the 250,000-odd jute workers
in producing states are concentrated in West Bengal. Before de-monetisation, workers
used to get their wages in cash
while miscellaneous payments such as provident fund were done through cheques.
The other challenge for the jute
industry is to ensure payments to workers
who don’t have bank accounts. This category, which constitutes around 10% of the total workforce, comprises floating workmen hired by agents. They are unregistered and don’t have the requisite documents to open bank accounts.
Raghav Gupta, chairman of Indian Jute
Mills Association (IJMA), said: “For the unregistered workers, we’re holding special camps to open bank accounts. Payments to around 80% of the jute workers
have already been made and the rest will be covered shortly.”
Gupta admitted the raw jute
trade revival remains a matter of concern due to squeeze in supply of currency notes. “Unless the JCI (Jute
Corporation of India) takes up commercial jute
operations, the revival of raw jute
appears bleak. Paucity of cash
has affected trading but we are trying to sort it out,” he added.
Normally, raw jute
trade worth Rs 400 crore is transacted between November and January of each crop year. But, the ban on old currency notes has crippled trading. Only 35% of the raw jute
is procured till now. Traders were unable to procure the new crop or take delivery of raw jute
booked earlier as cash
had dried out. Being a cash-dominated business, jute
trading had plunged into a crisis despite the availability of nine million bales (one bale is 180 kg) to meet the domestic demand.
To tide over the crisis, IJMA
has suggested that the Union ministry of textiles provide adequate capital to finance raw jute
purchase on a commercial basis by JCI. Although IJMA
has not divulged the figure, an industry estimate pegs the fund size at Rs 400 crore.