Mamata Banerjee. (File Pic)& |  Photo Credit: IANS
- PIL filed in Calcutta High Court alleging jute mill workmen haven’t been given their wages since lockdown began.
- Chief Justice division bench takes up the matter, asks the state government to resolve issue within four weeks.
- “It is expected that the state government shall play a positive and proactive role”, says Calcutta High Court.
Kolkata: A division bench headed by the Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court has ordered the West Bengal government to engage in a meaningful dialogue with jute mills over pending wages. The Calcutta High Court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) through video conference over jute mill workers in West Bengal not being paid their wages since the nationwide lockdown was announced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Calcutta High Court has directed the Labour Commissioner or any Principal Officer including the Principal Secretary of the department to take up the matter immediately and ensure to the best of their ability the payment of wages to the jute mill workers. “We are conscious of the difficulty that the workmen in the jute industry are facing due to the non-payment of their wages”, stated the order copy accessed by Times Now.
The order further directs the Mamata Banerjee government to complete the exercise as soon as possible and preferably within four weeks time. The order states, “It is expected that the state government shall play a positive and proactive role in the matter generating requisite motivation.”
The petition was filed before the Calcutta High Court by the Trade Union Centre of India (TUCI), an affiliated jute mill employees’ union on Wednesday. The PIL stated, the West Bengal government on March 29, 2020, had issued an order directing all employers, be it in industry, or in shops and commercial establishments to make payment of wages to their workmen. Thereafter the Deputy Labour Commissioner of Howrah on April 2, 2020, directed around nine jute mills of Howrah District to comply with the order earlier passed on March 29.
Even the Joint Labour Commissioner of Barrackpore under the West Bengal Government asked 18 jute mills of North 24 Parganas District to adhere to the March 29 order of payment of wages. Various unions of the jute mills even made a deputation to the police stations and Chief Secretary of West Bengal over not being paid their wages seeking their intervention. “The government completely ignored the issues of the workmen and were reluctant to intervene into the matter in ensuring that the orders issued by its own office were complied,” alleged the petitioner.
With the Calcutta High Court order, the West Bengal government through its labour department will now have to ensure the jute mill owners across West Bengal clear all the dues to its workmen who had also been severely affected due to the lockdown. The West Bengal government allowed the re-opening of jute mills in the state from April 20, 2020, after the Centre wrote repeatedly to the Chief Minister to operationalise the jute mills in order to manufacture gunny bags for food-grain packaging.