The jute industry in West Bengal on Saturday urged the Centre to allow the operation of mills as the workers can maintain social distancing while on work in factories during the coronavirus lockdown. CM Mamata Banerjee announced the extension of the lockdown till April 30 earlier in the day.
"The jute industry saw its revival in the last few years with the Centre's promotion of jute bags instead of plastic bags. However, since the lockdown was imposed due to the coronavirus, the workers of the jute industry are again on the verge of losing their jobs," Shiv Narayan Basu, Director, Basu Jutex, in North 24 Parganas, told ANI.
Basu said that in jute factories, each machine is set at a metre's distance from the other thus social distancing is maintained even otherwise. The government has issued strict social distancing norms since the outbreak in India to prevent viral transmission of COVID-19 as it is a highly communicable disease.
Basu urged the Modi government to allow the jute industry to function saying that the sector is important during these months as it is time to harvest rabi and Kharif crops. He said, "There are several crops like wheat, potato, onion, etc., which cannot be packed in plastic bags. These need to be packed in jute bags and only then can be taken to vegetable markets."
The lockdown has also hit the export of jute from India to other countries. "For the past couple of years, we were getting a good amount of orders from abroad. However, due to the lockdown imposed in almost all countries, the packs that were ready to be shipped off are now lying in our godowns," added Basu.
India has so far reported 7529 cases of COVID-19 of which 242 patients have died and 653 patients have recovered. The three-week lockdown entered its eighteenth day on Saturday. Maharashtra has is the hardist-hit, with 1574 cases.
(With ANI inputs)