Khardah Jute Mill used to employ over 10,000 workers and was nationalised in 1980. But it closed down in 2004, was revived for some time and shut down again in 2018. Titagarh once had high employment generating paper mills but today very few like Prabartak Jute Mills at Kamarhati survive.
Land vacated by industries have given way to towering housing projects, says Satish Mal, an employee at Kamarhati Municipality. Most of the sad looking people one encounters at Kamarhati seem to live on nearly nothing. They depend on occasional work that come their way and most of their women folk work as maids nw.
Roads off BT Road take one to residential areas of Baranagar, Belghoria and Kamarhati where printing, tailoring, fabrication and engineering job works, packaging units, battery charging units once thrived. Now they have shut down and have been replaced by pathological laboratories, offset printing presses and beauty parlours.
“The industrial map of Baranagar needs to be reimagined”, says Gopal Banerjee, a trade union leader. When the Left Front took over in 1977, it inherited an already declining industrial economy. Left’s new industrial policy that shifted the focus from heavy industry to small and cottage industries, affected bigger business houses and multinational firms and led to flight of capital. Many jute mills shifted to Andhra Pradesh and Bangladesh. The beginning of a non-Communist government by Mamata Banerjee failed to reverse the trend.