While factories across the country have resumed operations after lockdown restrictions eased, 23 textile mills under the National Textile Corporation (NTC) — an entity under the Union Textile Ministry — are yet to resume operations.
All 23 mills, employing around 15,000 workers in various states, had suspended operations on March 24 — a day before the nationwide lockdown was declared.
Around 3,000 workers employed in five mills located in Kerala have gone on protest, demanding the reopening of all mills. The joint action council for the agitation has been formed by the Congress-affiliated Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) and CPI (M)’s Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), with the RSS’s trade union wing Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) also giving support.
An NTC southern region senior official, who did not want to be named, said the corporation has not got any direction from the Textile Ministry regarding the reopening of the mills, which produce yarn. The demand for yarn is yet to pick, the official said.
However, Kerala State Mill Workers Federation general secretary and state CITU treasurer P Nandakumar claimed that there is no ground in the argument that the market is sluggish.
“All mills under the Kerala State Textile Corporation and those under co-operative sector have reopened in May. These mills readily find a market for yarn. The private textile sector is in full swing as demand for textile products in health care has gone up during pandemic days,” Nandakumar said.
He claimed workers at the five Kerala mills have been paid only part of their salary. “We fear that the Union government may privatise the mills after creating a crisis by not reopening the units. All five units in Kerala have been recently modernised,” he said.