Distress in the handloom and textiles sector has been intensifying amid the nearly 50 days of lockdown imposed for the containment of COVID-19. Workers and unions associated with the sector have been demanding the government to procure the already produced cloth stocks, financial assistance to all affected workers and complete waiver of Goods and Services Tax (GST) on handloom products among others.
Kurapati Ramesh, state general secretary, Handloom and Textiles Union, told NewsClick that two workers in the handloom industry have committed suicide due to sudden financial burden during the lockdown and the state government has not even provided any ex-gratia to the affected families so far.
On May 10, state Industries and Textiles Minister KT Rama Rao wrote a letter to the Union Textiles Minister Smriti Irani, urging her to promote textile and apparel sectors in the country. In his letter, Rama Rao suggested the Centre “provide wage support of upto 50% for a period of up to six months, in the form of a long-term loan which the company may repay in instalments after a stipulated period.” Furthermore, Rama Rao suggested the central government “should consider 50% subsidy on yarn across the handloom industry and also consider complete waiver of GST on handloom products.”
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However, the letter fails to address the distress in the handloom and textiles sector in the state, said Ramesh. Speaking to NewsClick, he said: “Since the lockdown was imposed, all the textiles units including handlooms and powerloom units have been closed and the already produced cloth or apparel stocks are piled up. The crisis in the sector seems to only intensify in the future as the apparel market is affected with the purchasing power of consumers has come down.” In order to help the distressed workers, Ramesh said that the government must procure the piled up stocks from the units in the states, provide complete waiver on GST on handloom products and providefinancial assistance to the workers up to Rs 10,000 each for loss of wages during the lockdown period and provide loans for units to restart their production.
“While the state scheme which is required to provide a 40% subsidy on yarn to the handloom industry is already in place, the scheme is not being implemented. On top of this, it is misleading that the state minister is asking for a 50% subsidy on yarn from the Centre,” he said.
According to state government data, there are 40,533 handloom weavers including ancillary weavers in the state. There are about 35,762 powerlooms, 615 weaver cooperative societies, 157 powerlooms societies and 122 garments societies in the state.
In Jangaon, an important cluster of handlooms units in the state, reportedly, 3,600 workers associated with the sector are affected in the town alone due to piled up stocks and stoppage of production due to lack of material.