In June 2015, the management of Bhajrang Jute Mill in Guntur announced a lockout citing huge losses.

3000 livelihoods at risk Andhra jute mill workers to intensify fight over shutdownImage : Facebook/ Appireddy Lellla
news Protest Thursday, July 05, 2018 - 18:29

Workers of Guntur's Bhajrang Jute Mill, one of the state’s oldest and largest mills, are distressed over the mill’s shutdown. They are up in arms against the management and the government and want the mill to be reopened.

On Wednesday, as many as 100 mill workers along with several CPI leaders were arrested as they went on an indefinite hunger strike. YSRCP leader and Jute Mill Protection Committee President Lella Appireddy was kept under house arrest.

The jute mill passed through the hands of several managements over the years. In 1994, the management had assured to give 36% share of ownership to its workers, but it never materialised. They had apparently appointed union leaders in the Board of Directors but they later quit.

Bajrang Jute Mill started operations in 1935 and was acquired by Davu Gopal Lunani and his family in 1994.

A Jute Mill Parirakshana (Protection) Committee was formed by the workers in 2015 and leaders from political parties including CPI, CPI(M) and YSRCP have been fighting on behalf of the workers. 

In June 2015, the management announced a lockout citing huge losses.

The company announced a lockout just to monetise its properties, alleges N Bhavanarayana, CPI (M) leader and member of the Jute Mill Protection Committee. He further alleges that the management entered into a property development agreement with a private firm even before its lockout, without informing the workers.

While the management claimed that the agreement was to develop the mill’s 7.79 acres of land, activists allege that the management is trying to short-change the workers.

Bhavanarayana told TNM, “The government must not let the company play with the workers’ livelihood. It has already affected as many as 3,000 workers and they must be given compensation for these three years and the mill should be reopened immediately.”

Speaking to TNM, Lella Appireddy condemned his house arrest and the arrests of the workers. He demanded immediate reopening of the jute mill.

Alleging that the management is trying to sell off the jute mill properties despite not having any authority, he said, "The land was acquired in 1935 and all machinery is company property. The BIFR (Board of Industrial and Financial Reconstruction), which monitored the firm’s financial performance, has asked the management to revive the mill. They can't hand over its properties to other firms."

He alleged that the government has become a mute spectator while the management is trying to dispose the land to fetch profits. He said, "Our immediate demand is reopening of the mill and providing employment to the workers, till then we won't step back".

Buzz is that the management is apparently trying to make hay while the sun shines. With the new capital of Amaravati set to come up in the vicinity of Guntur, prices of land in the region have shot through the roof.

The Bhajrang Jute Mill Protection committee is going to hold an executive meeting in Guntur on Friday to draw up the next plan of action.


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