Nine of Khulna's state-owned jute mills, which have been closed by a government order, are under security threat. As the mills are not operational, chances are high that the important tools and machinery of the mills may be stolen because of insufficient security measures.
Already, goods worth Tk2.72 lakh have been stolen from Crescent Jute Mill and Jessore Jute Industries (JJI).
Sources from Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC) said following the announcement of the closure of state-owned jute mills, the nine state-owned jute mills in Khulna have lacked sufficient security.
The river bank portion of the mills, especially, have become unprotected. The barbed wire fences at many places along the river banks have disappeared. Anyone can easily enter through these points.
Moreover, as the mills now have no workers, surveillance has also reduced. As a result, there is a fear of theft of important goods and valuable parts of the mills.
Meanwhile, goods worth Tk1.79 lakh were stolen from Crescent Jute Mill on August 23 and goods worth Tk93,000 from JJI on September 9.
Amid recurring losses, the government on June 25 decided to close 25 state-owned jute mills in the country, including the nine in Khulna. On July 2, the announcement of the closure of the jute mills and the termination of the workers under the Golden Handshake was put on notice board of each of the mills.
At the nine closed state-owned jute mills in Khulna, there are 5,083 looms, all usable.
According to sources, out of the nine state-owned jute mills in Khulna: there are 250 looms at Alim Jute Mill, 86 at Carpeting Jute Mills, 275 at Eastern Jute Mills, 466 at JJI, 957 at Platinum Jubilee Jute Mills, 770 at Star Jute Mills, 91 at Khalishpur Jute Mills, 250 at Doulotpur Jute Mills, and 1,138 looms at Crescent Jute Mills.
The estimated price of the looms is around Tk1,000 crore.
In line with the looms, the jute mills also have valuable goods. After the mills' closure, approval was given for armed Ansar members to ensure the overall law and order situation at the mills.
Meanwhile, the Ansar members have started their duties at the Carpeting, JJI, Khalishpur, Crescent, Platinum, and Star Jute mills.
BJMC sources also said that there were 1,004 officials and workers in the nine state-owned jute mills in Khulna. Further, 351 security guards, including 98 Ansar members, are in charge of providing security for the closed jute mills.
Advocate Kudrat-e-Khuda, convener of the Khulna Citizens' Council for the Protection of Jute Mills, said state-owned jute mills in the Khulna region have been unprotected since the closure was announced.
"Meanwhile, goods worth several lakh taka of JJI Jute Mills and Crescent Jute Mills have been stolen. Thieves and dishonest officials of the mills are involved in the theft. So, the government needs to be careful about the matter now," he said.
Murad Hossain, joint convener of the state-owned jute mill CBA-non CBA Sangram Parishad and a former worker of Crescent Jute Mills, said there was no security fence within a kilometre of the Crescent Jute Mills along the river.
"It requires 120 security guards to ensure security of the mills. At present there are only 40 to 50 people for the purpose," he said.
Khulna city Mayor Talukder Abdul Khaleq said only workers of the jute mills were involved in production.
"The mills officials were responsible for safety and maintenance of the mills when the mills were operational. Even during this closure, the officials concerned have no scope to neglect their responsibilities," he said.
State Minister for Labour and Employment Begum Monnujan Sufian said state-owned jute mills in the country, including Khulna, would soon be reopened under a public-private partnership (PPP) initiative.
"Therefore, the maintenance and supervision of state-owned jute mills is the moral responsibility of the project head of the mills as well as the government officials and employees working in the mills," she said.
Khulna Metropolitan Police Commissioner Khandaker Lutful Kabir said law enforcement agencies were beside the mill authorities to ensure security of the jute mills.
Golam Rabbani, acting regional coordinator (liaison officer) of BJMC, said proper security measures have been adopted at the jute mills after their closure.
Acknowledging the theft at JJI and Crescent Jute Mills, he said the thief of Crescent Jute Mill was caught and legal measures were underway.