Hope Rises to Revive Nepal’s Historic Janakpur Cigarette Factory
Voices are being raised in Nepal to revive the ‘dead’ Janakpur Cigarette Factory (Jachukali), an institution that once played a significant role in the country’s economy. Situated in the present Janakpurdham Sub Metropolitan City-9, the factory’s history dates back to its establishment in 1961 under the visionary leadership of then Nepali Congress President BP Koirala and Minister for Industry and Commerce Ram Narayan Mishra. Backed by financial and technical assistance from the Government of Russia, the factory quickly took shape and became an integral part of the nation’s economic landscape.
In its heyday, Jachukali, spanning around 33 bighas and nine katthas of land, employed around 2,900 permanent employees, contractors, and daily wagers. Its production capacity soared to 3 billion cigarette sticks a day, supplied under popular brands like ‘Deurali’, ‘Yak’, and ‘Gaida’. The factory catered to the increasing demand for cigarettes by delivering its products to 75 districts through 105 branch offices across the country.
The impact of Jachukali extended beyond its economic significance. It connected with the lives of the entire population, particularly the Madhes region, where it became a vital part of the social fabric. The factory’s success was also attributed to the strict discipline and punctuality maintained by its employees under the Panchayat system. The factory’s influence on society was evident in its various social corporate responsibility initiatives, including the establishment of a hospital and school for employees and their children, support for religious places in Janakpur, electricity management in public areas, and the establishment of a sports club.
However, political upheavals and a lack of proper infrastructure eventually took a toll on the factory’s success. After the restoration of democracy in 1990, the dynamics within the factory changed dramatically. Political influence seeped into its operations, leading to irregularities, rule violations, and questionable appointments. The once-thriving institution that stood as a symbol of Nepali entrepreneurship and reliability started to decline rapidly.
The closure of the factory in July 2013 marked a sad day for many. The government’s decision to lay off its 758 permanent employees and around 200 contractors and daily wagers came as a severe blow to the employees and the region’s economy. The factory and its premises were eventually taken over by the government of Madhes Province, which repurposed the location for various administrative offices and security personnel.
Despite the closure, the memories of the vibrant past continue to haunt Ramnarit Sharma, a former employee, and witness to the rise and fall of Jachukali. He remembers the time when the factory was a beacon of progress, generating hope and prosperity for the people of Janakpur and beyond. Sharma’s attachment to the factory is so profound that he built his house near its entrance.
Now, as discussions arise about the revival of Jachukali, Sharma, and others who share his sentiments call for a different approach. Instead of making it a center of political activities, they advocate transforming the once-mighty institution into an entrepreneurship hub. This vision aims to recapture the glory of Jachukali, bringing back the economic dynamism it once represented and re-establishing it as a reliable foundation for livelihoods in the region. The call for revival echoes throughout Nepal, reigniting hopes for a brighter future for the beloved Janakpur Cigarette Factory.
This news is published on Nepal News.