Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC) has decided to lease 16 out of 22 jute mills to the private sector. As per the decision, BJMC has invited international tenders from April 26. As of the last day of submission of applications, till June 16, 51 applications have been submitted for leasing 14 jute mills. No application has been submitted for the remaining three. For now, the next step in leasing these 14 jute mills will be finalized, the Ministry of Textiles and Jute said. The BJMC chairman said an initiative has been taken to leave government jute mills to the private sector by ensuring employment of jute mill workers based on the directives of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. According to the decision, the process will be completed within the current year and handed over to the lessees. It is worth mentioning that the post-independence governments did not take any initiative to alleviate the misery of the jute industry, which was once the main sector of the country. The industry continued to weaken due to a lack of focus on the development, renovation and modernization of jute mills. As jute loses its heritage, jute mills become a loss-making institution and a burden to the state.

The tradition and economic potential of the jute industry in our country is very ancient. After the partition of the country in 1947, one jute mill after another was built to take advantage of this possibility. The jute industry flourished in the ’50s and ’60s. As part of this, the largest jute mill in Asia, Adamji Jute Mill, was established. Narayanganj came to be known as the Dandi of the East as a jute mill was built around Narayanganj. Jute mills were established in different parts of the country including Khulna. Jute is said to be the number one cash crop in Bangladesh. Tosha jute is in great demand worldwide. Farmers continue to benefit by cultivating jute. A huge amount of foreign exchange is earned by exporting jute and jute products abroad. After independence, the entire sector was nationalized and the industry began to lose its heritage. Various jute mills are stuck in a circle of losses. Meanwhile, farmers are frustrated by not getting a fair price by cultivating jute. Even then, millions of farmers are still cultivating jute. In general, jute is cultivated in about 12 lakh acres of land in the country. It produces an average of 57 lakh bales or 10 lakh tonnes of jute. Of this, 21 lakh bales are exported, from which one thousand crore rupees is earned. Bangladesh ranks second in the world in jute production after India. Jute and jute products produced in Bangladesh are in great demand abroad. The demand for jute products is increasing day by day especially as it is environment friendly and sustainable. It is even heard of making car materials from jute abroad. Besides jute sacks, ropes, bags, mats, triplets, shoes, cloth, carpets, and other products are produced. Due to this multifaceted use of jute, its demand is huge in the world. But our rich jute industry is not going to be utilized properly. Where the number of our export products is very low, the established jute industry has been pushed towards a sick state. Considering the losses, the jute mills have been shut down instead of being kept open. The subject has become like a beheading due to a headache. It has been decided to close the ailing jute mill without taking any initiative on how to reform and modernize it. Adamji Jute Mills, which turned a loss during the last BNP government on the advice of the World Bank, was shut down. It was a wrong decision. It was not right to shut down the company instead of making it profitable. It cannot be said that the present government has taken any initiative to protect and develop the jute industry. The government could have taken the decision to lease the jute mills to the private sector long ago. Or the jute mills could be built from time to time.

The garment industry is more important to the government. It has also given incentives in this sector. However, with the focus on the jute industry in this sector with incentives and proper management would have been much more beneficial.

The sooner the leasing process of jute mills is completed, the better. In this case, there should be no delay. Among the non-government organizations that have applied for a lease, those who have the capacity to run jute mills should be handed over. Officers, employees, and workers working in jute mills should be retained based on the directives of the Prime Minister. Cannot be fired. Once the transfer process is completed, the concerned lessee has to start production activities quickly. It will not work if the jute mill is inaugurated. In the case of starting jute mills, they have to set a deadline. Jute mills have huge landholdings. There should be a ban on leaseholders not being able to build any kind of housing project there. However, if they build a productive factory on those lands, they can be allowed to do so. We think that the leaseholders will soon start their activities to bring back the lost glory of the jute industry and make it one of the major export sectors. In this case, the government should also have a monitoring system.

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