The complaints are mainly against the import of jute bags from Nepal and Bangladesh.

Admitting to the charge levelled by the Jute Commissioner on imported gunny bags being used to pack foodgrains, the beleaguered jute industry has said that this was a practice being resorted to by a section of jute traders, who were importing jute bags from Bangladesh and Nepal.

This is adding to the present problem of the Indian jute industry, which is plagued by shortage of orders. The industry maintains that dearth of orders has forced it to cutback on production, triggering a spate of work suspensions.

The work suspensions came in the aftermath of the Northbrook Jute Mills incident where the Chief Executive Officer (works) of the mill was lynched by workers who were protesting against a proposal to cutback on working hours due to paucity of orders.

The Jute Commissioner’s office here said on Monday that it had begun investigation against certain mills against whom there were reports of malpractices.

The complaints were mainly against the import of jute bags from Nepal and Bangladesh.

Such imports are not banned but regulations are in place to stop such bags being used for foodgrains packaging. Under the mandatory packaging order now in force, 90 per cent of the total foodgrains produced in the country and 20 per cent of the sugar output are to be packed in jute bags. This has come to be the mainstay for an industry, which is losing its place to synthetic packaging materials. Nearly Rs.5,000 crore worth gunny bags were purchased by various state governments, Jute Commissioner Subrata Gupta told The Hindu.

When contacted, the Indian Jute Mills’ Association Chairman, Raghavendra Gupta, told The Hindu that it was unlikely that any jute mill was involved in jute goods import. “This is mainly resorted to by jute traders. Jute bags import is estimated at 15,000 tonnes per month and accounts for the output of seven mills on an average.” Imported jute bags are cheaper as they are duty-free and they enjoy various cash subsidies in the countries of origin.

Enquiries revealed that there were several mills which were actually using imported bags. These mills had been identified and investigations would be held, it was learnt.

Concerned over the state of the industry where thousands are now out of work following lock-outs in their respective mills, the government took a series of measures, including the setting up of an inter-ministerial committee which will examine the industry’s status and move the Centre for redress.

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