The Sammilita Nagarik Parishad – a civil society platform – which has been floated recently to save the jute industry has called for scrapping the decision to shut down the state-owned jute mills in Khulna.
Concerned citizens of Khulna, leftist political groups and workers' organisations made the demand jointly at a press conference on behalf of the council at the CPB office on Thursday afternoon.
Advocate Kudrat-i-Khuda, convener of the Jute Industry Protection Joint Citizens' Council, read out a written statement in the programme.
At the press conference, the speakers said jute is our millennial tradition and pride, and once it was our main source of foreign exchange. About three crore people in Bangladesh are directly and indirectly involved in this industry – including workers, farmers, traders and small businesses associated with jute mills.
History says not a single jute mill which was privatised in the past managed to survive, they added.
Our experience with public-private partnership (PPP) is not good. At present, PPP has 56 projects in transport, housing, urbanisation, tourism, economic zone, health, fuel, education and industrial sectors. None of them is good and many are already closed.
Again, many individual owners are not paying their dues as per the contract. As a result, there is no confidence in the fact that the jute industry can be protected by running under the PPP. Rather, it will pave the way for looting.
The press conference recommended reversing the decision to nationalise the state-owned mills and keeping them in the hands of the state.
Other recommendations in the 10-point demand include identifying the causes of jute mill losses to find a solution, organising a national dialogue with all those involved in jute to run jute mills, changing the existing structure of BJMC for operating 77 jute mills and creating efficient management structure to manage 25 jute mills, and reducing "thick-headed administration" of all state-owned mills.
Freedom fighter AFM Muhsin, convener of Khulna Civil Society, presided over the press conference. Member secretaries of Sammilita Nagrik Parishad SA Rashid, Mozammel Haque, Janardan Dutt Nantu, Advocate Babul Hawlader, Anisur Rahman Mithu were present at the event, among others.