The Chittivalasa Jute Mill in Visakhapatnam district was locked out on April 21, 2009, under the pretext of reducing shifts from three to two, leaving the fate of over 5000 workers hanging in uncertainty.
The issue, which had since remained unresolved despite several attempts to get the mill reopened, assumed greater importance around the elections. While the TDP had promised in its election manifesto that it would get the mill opened, Jana Sena supremo Pawan Kalyan also made a similar promise during his public meetings in the district. The YSRCP also vowed to reopen the jute mill on assuming charge, a promise it reiterated after winning the election.
State Tourism Minister Avanti Srinivasa Rao, who was elected to the state assembly from Bheemili constituency in the district, further promised to resolve the issue amicably within six months. However, contrary to expectations, it was agreed that the mill was to be closed and the workers’ due settled. The agreement was arrived at after a round of negotiations held at the behest of Avanti Srinivasa Rao. Further, it was agreed that the management would pay permanent workers of the jute mill five-and-a-half months’ salary plus the arrears of statutory dues. After clearing the pending dues, the management would also be able to sell 70 acres of land at a premium. Union leaders have long argued that the management, on the pretext of closure, was inclined to convert this prime land into a real estate project.
The mill workers and activists protested against the closure of the mills and accused CM Jagan Mohan Reddy of making a U-turn on his pre-poll promise. They also accused the government of colluding with the management and other trade unions. A protest held on NH-16 was crushed violently as the police resorted to lathi-charge and bundled the protesters into a police van. After the incident, the CITU filed a petition in the AP High Court and obtained a stay order against the closure of the mill.
One of the oldest composite jute mills in the country, the Chittivalasa Jute Mill has a production capacity of 100 tonnes a day. The workers had hoped for the government to sanction a working capital grant for its reopening, earmarking a part of it for settling their dues. The revival was also sought stating that there was a broader scope to market jute products due to increasing awareness against plastic.