Life of a jute worker

Life of a jute worker


Author: Shanta Chatterjee | Contributor
S. No.: IJMA/FOI/22032021/1347/JS-39
Date: 22-03-2021 | Time: 13:47 pm
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About the Author

: Shanta Chatterjee is a housewife who left teaching after seven years of nurturing young minds. Now, she stays at home, looks after her family and tries her hand at writing for various publications.

Introduction

: The story after selling the fibres is not known to anyone. Some assume they are supplied to Bangladesh or other places in West Bengal. Had there been some jute mills then they would have been blessed with perennial work.

Jute workers are abundant in our country. Even after partition in 1947, the majority of the jute mills were in Bangladesh but still India remains the largest producer of jute. Because of it’s hot and humid weather which is conducive to jute production, jute is abundantly grown here, therefore generating work for thousands of farmers.

Even though it generates work but the condition of the workers still remains piteous, where hunger, starvation have become burning issues. In addition to these factors, workers migrate in search of work which is an absolute necessity for survival.

This is the story of Rahat, a landless agricultural laborer in a small hamlet in Purulia. This story is not only about Rahat, but it is also the story of many others like him.

Rahat’s day starts at 7 0’ clock in the morning till 2 0’ clock at noon. This routine of Rahat is practised during the jute season which generally starts from July and continues till October. It is during this phase he could be traced with a sickle cutting the jute plants early morning. As hot and humid climate along with standing waters and good amount of rainfall is optimum for its growth, Jute cultivation period collides with monsoon season. It can also resist standing water which is a normal phenomenon during monsoons in Purulia. Jute season continues for a couple of months and being labor oriented, it ushers in a good time for laborers like Rahat as it generates daily work.

In other times Rahat and his fellow workers have to squat around worrying about getting work the next day. Uncertainty of work is a big problem. But the procedure during retting, which is the post- harvest procedure where jute fibre is being extracted from the plants yields good returns. During this time Rahat earns one- tenth of the fibre he extracts as his wage. The other part goes to the hands of the landowners. To make a considerable amount of income as he has four mouths to feed, he by himself removes the fibre, puts it to dry and then transport it by himself to the jute stocker. This is his daily routine during jute season. During the jute season Rahat is seen immersed in water from 7 a.m in the morning with an empty stomach. He has his first meal of the day when he arrives in his hut collecting the extracted fibres and puts it to dry and as jute fibres get dried pretty fast, it serves as an advantage.

But the problem creeps up on a rainy or cloudy day which hampers the drying process. On such days Rahat and his family have to go on starvation if some leftover foods of the bygone days are not present. This problem persists during excessive floods, when crops get damaged or washed away. The Government pays compensation to the landowners, workers like him are left bare handed.

Rahat can earn something between Rs 180 to Rs 250 depending upon his ability of extracting jute fibres. But the story after selling the fibres is not known to anyone. Some assume they are supplied to Bangladesh or other places in West Bengal. Had there been some jute mills then they would have been blessed with perennial work.

As the jute season is coming to an end, harvest, retting are done, the workers are again left jobless, penny less. As a result they are left with only one option i.e migration. They migrate to nearby places like Punjab, Haryana, Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh in search of work. There Rahat and his fellow workers are seen working on road or building construction, or some are seen risking their lives on the rugged, inaccessible lofty mountains of Arunachal Pradesh or Ladakh. During this time their life revolves around hardships, exploitation, cheating where they get fooled by contractors who backout from paying wages after completion of work.

This is the real face of our jute workers. They migrate from place to place in the Off Jute Season. Engulfed in dust and filth they could be traced sitting on the floors of railway compartments or on platforms. On platforms they spend a considerable amount of time sleeping or just sitting in the midst of dust. With uncombed hair, torn cloth similar to rag they spend their days, hoping for the next jute season to arrive soon.

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