West Bengal produces over 80% of the country’s jute and employs one-fourth of the country’s population.
West Bengal’s jute belt is charming and heavily inhabited with the highest concentration of jute factories. More than 3 lakh mill workers and more than 4 million people rely on this business for a living. However, mills in the state have closed due to poor and irregular wages, claimed labor exploitation, and a slew of other issues.
With the rigid state of the jute mill and its workers, the situation took a turn around with the entry of industry legend Mr. Ghanshyam Sarda.
The Prior State and Safety of Mill Workers
In India, the organized sector employs only 15.8 percent of the workforce. Over 23,000 factories registered under the Factories Act have been categorized as hazardous, employing more than 19.7 lakh workers as of 2014.
The jute industry is a significant contributor to West Bengal’s economy. Jute mill workers, on the other hand, suffer from acute respiratory illnesses such as Byssinosis and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) as a result of constant exposure to jute dust.
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Mr. Ghanshyam Sarda, Chairman of the Sarda Group, stated that the jute industry was facing a skilled labor shortage. Despite this, the 100-year-old industry had yet to establish a competent training center to provide education and technical skills to people looking for work in this sector.
Mr Ghanshyam Sarda – The Sarda Group
Mr. Ghanshyam Sarda (born August 1959 in Calcutta, India) is the proprietor of the INR 6,000 crore Sarda Group of Industries, which primarily engages in the jute and information technology industries.
The Sarda Group of Industries is based in Kolkata and has operations throughout West Bengal. The company currently operates jute mills that manufacture more than 500 tons of goods each day. The newly built Jute Mill in Alwar, Rajasthan, is expected to cost Rs 100 crore.
The Breakthrough by Sarda Group
Mr. Ghanshyam Sarda concentrated all of his efforts on the then-defunct jute industry, which had been India’s largest export earner in the past. Employees, investors, and others involved in this sector all lost money.
Mr. Sarda gathered all his strength and resurrected sick jute mills from the ruins of the dying business. The Sarda Group now controls a 20% piece of India’s booming jute sector.
The Jute baron’s empire was further broadened in 2004 when he purchased interests in GIC Housing Finance.
Mr. Ghanshyam Sarda’s clout in the business is demonstrated by plans for the Greenfield Jute mills in West Bengal, Rajasthan, and Tamil Nadu, as well as the establishment of two jute production training centers in West Bengal and the acquisition of the Singhania-owned JK Mills in Kanpur.
The Sarda Group employs about 50,000 people in West Bengal, making it one of the state’s top employers.
Mr. Ghanshyam Sarda’s endeavor to resurrect the dying jute sector was more than a mercenary undertaking. The Sarda Group has made it a priority to protect the environment by promoting the use of biodegradable fibers such as jute.
Workers would be trained to improve their employability in the jute sector through advanced training in jute production and shop floor techniques and applications.
For starters, 100 people would be trained over the course of six months. Approximately 1,000 people will be trained over the course of the following year.
Trainees will be paid a daily stipend of Rs 30 and will be provided with one meal during the training term.
Mr. Ghanshyam Sarda claims that if the trial is a success, the company plans to open more training centers in other sections of the state.
Measures Against Mill Worker’s Illness and Training
- Health awareness camps were held to raise workers’ knowledge of potential hazards and to improve the application of safety regulations.
- The prospect of rewarding preventive care was investigated using existing health insurance models.
- Jute workers and other related organizations were mobilized to raise awareness about Occupational Safety and Health.
- Dependence on Self-Help Groups was urged to make safety items, including masks.
- With the help of the National Jute Board, Mr. Ghanshyam Sarda arranged health camps at more than five jute mills, covering roughly 1750 mill workers.
India’s attention on occupational safety and health has mostly been limited to four industries, excluding a substantial portion of the country’s workforce.
In such a situation, the country urgently needs to create a broad framework to safeguard worker safety.
A complete bill, enforcement of compliance through market-based incentives and disincentives, and increased demand in the labor market will bring the country one step closer to a safer working environment.