Riding on strong weaves

With a new National Textiles Policy on the anvil, India is eyeing a 30 per cent leap in textile exports despite poor demand from Western countries

August 08, 2013 02:42 pm | Updated 02:42 pm IST

Women play a key role: The Textile Ministry looks for flexible labour laws. Photo: K.K. Mustafah

Women play a key role: The Textile Ministry looks for flexible labour laws. Photo: K.K. Mustafah

An Expert Committee constituted to formulate a new National Textiles Policy is likely to submit its report by October this year.

The government constituted the committee in June to review the National Textiles Policy 2000 and formulate the National Textiles Policy 2013. The policy will give a direction to the sector as a whole and address the needs of the industry for 21st century trade operations. The panel is headed by National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council (NMCC) member secretary Ajay Shankar.

India’s export of textiles and clothing remained almost the same year-on-year at $7.79 billion in the April-June quarter this fiscal. In the first three months of the last fiscal, the exports stood at $7.76 billion. During the first quarter of 2013-14, it increased to $7.79 billion, from $7.76 billion over the same period of the 2012-13. In 2012, the volatility in major markets including the U.S. and the EU severely affected India’s textiles and clothing exports. The U.S. and Europe account for 65 per cent of the country’s total textiles exports. Exporters are also exploring new markets like Japan, Australia, Israel, Latin America, Africa, South East Asia and Middle East countries to reduce dependence on Western markets.

“I have assured Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that the textile sector, with all the support from various ministries, will touch exports of $43.7 billion by next year, an increase of 30 per cent over the $33.7 billion exports in 2012,” newly-sworn-in Union Textiles Minister K.S. Rao stated, adding that there are no worries due to the global economic slowdown and the continued poor demand from traditional Western markets.

Referring to the target set by Dr. Singh for 30 per cent increase in export of textiles, Mr. Rao said the Inter-Ministerial Group on textiles, headed by Textile Secretary Zohra Chatterjee, would soon submit its action plan and the same would be presented to the Prime Minister. The group will suggest ways to address issues of labour and give a boost to exports.

“The textile industry is also capable of contributing tremendously to the national GDP by creating numerous jobs. But to achieve this, we need to integrate the sector, build a chain and should only export the finished products, retail garments, apparels, non woven fabrics, composites, etc. after adding value and not the raw materials,” he remarked. The Indian textile sector employs 90 million people directly or indirectly and is in urgent need of huge investments in form of latest machinery, research and development, innovation, FDI and stable policies.

Stating that the role of women was very important in the textile industry, Mr. Rao said he would soon be taking up with the Prime Minister and Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram not only incentives for the industry but also changes in the labour laws to allow women to work in night shifts in the industry. “Women are allowed to work in night shifts in the IT industry, then why not textiles sector? The industry also wants flexibility in allowing worker overtime as there is an element of seasonality in the work of the textile industry that needs to be kept in mind.”

He added that the government has identified sops such as interest subvention for importing second hand modern looms, easier packaging credit with interest subvention, and also fast tracking of the implementation of the technology up-gradation fund (TUF).

Mr. Rao said another priority on his mind was speeding up of the TUF notification to encourage fresh investments in yarn production that will also boost its exports. He said the government was mulling over imposition of a ceiling on the benefit given under the TUF scheme. A Parliamentary Standing Committee report on Labour had in its report said that the reach of TUFS was limited, with mostly industrialised States benefiting from it. “This is absolutely true that rich States have benefited more from the TUFS scheme. For example, in Andhra Pradesh, each mill has 7,000 to 25,000 spindles while in some States in north India, each mill has seven lakh spindles. When the benefit is given under TUFS, there is no ceiling. We want to encourage a ceiling so that if we find that we are reaching saturation point in a State, then we will review the situation,” he said.

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