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Adamjee Jute Mills closes tomorrow

A sombre peace prevailed in the usually humming Adamjee Jute Mills (AJM) premises with law enforces massed to enforce a government decision to close down the world's largest jute mill tomorrow.

Gulf News

A sombre peace prevailed in the usually humming Adamjee Jute Mills (AJM) premises with law enforces massed to enforce a government decision to close down the world's largest jute mill tomorrow.

The air over the AJM seems heavy with sighs as workers were embracing one another in parting affection, while many of them have already left for home.

Closure of the jute mill is seen as a big step towards the government move to get rid of the huge losses by the state enterprises as being dictated by the donors since long.

Pain is always associated with reforms going on across the world in present times, but it is felt all the more intensely here at Adamjee, where over 25,000 staff and their dependents are going to desert it all of a sudden.

Many are aggrieved for severing their long relations with the mill, set up in the middle of past century. The ordinary workers say they have no resentment against the closure decision rather they feel sad leaving the place for which they feel from the core of their hearts.

The traumatic feeling is also evident among the students of a school at the mill compound. Local correspondents visiting the AJM, 20 kilometres south of Dhaka, describes the latest situation there.

"No one knows if we will be able to see one another ever in the future," a student of Adamjee Girls Student was quoted as saying. The workers said they are ready to leave the mill premises soon after getting the payoffs under the government's 'golden handshake' scheme.

Many of them have welcomed the decision to shutdown the jute mill causing huge losses to the public exchequer and demanded punishment to those who became rich overnight by 'looting public money'.

Yet, others are trying to wage a violent protest against the move. One worker preferring anonymity said those who benefited from the mill without working and got involved in terrorist activities were trying to create trouble.

Meanwhile, huge contingents of police and paramilitary forces are guarding the sprawling mill and its adjoining areas to stave off attempts at disturbing law and order.

Jute Minister Hafizuddin Ahmed said the authorities would start clearing dues of the workers and compensating them soon. But many workers are afraid that they would not get their dues as the money earmarked for scheme is too little to meet the requirements.

He said the government did not shut down the world's biggest jute mill earlier considering the employees' welfare and interest.

"But the mill is incurring huge loss perennially, posing a threat to the country's economy that cannot be allowed anyway," the minister said.

The minister also requested the labour leaders to help implement the government decision.

Established in 1951 by Gul Mohammed Adamjee and once legendary as a glorious example of Asian entrepreneurship, the AJM had over the years become an expensive white elephant as production suffered due to unbridled corruption, violent political clashes between different interest groups within the AJM and unhealthy trade unionism.

Seeking anonymity, an AJM official said the amount of losses incurred to keep the mill operational mounted every year. But after 1993, the losses shot up to astronomically high figures.

Among the 17,093 permanent and 6,100 temporary workers in the AJM, there are about 1200 'virtual' workers who exist only in papers, and these phantom names are used by union leaders to make a huge amount of money every month.

Moreover, a section of officials and workers' leaders has also sucked the mill dry in many different ways.

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