It’s curtains down for Swadeshee - Bharathee textile mills

The Industries Department filed an application with the Labour Department to close down Swadeshee - Bharathee Textile Mills Limited by end of this month.

The Industries Department filed an application with the Labour Department to close down Swadeshee - Bharathee Textile Mills Limited by end of this month. | Photo Credit: S.S.KUMAR

It is curtains down for yet another traditional textile mill of the Union Territory following the decision of the Industries Department to file an application with the Labour Department to close down Swadeshee - Bharathee Textile Mills Limited by end of this month, on the lines of closure of Anglo French Textiles.

Swadeshi Cotton (Savana) and Sri Bharathi mills (Gaeble) were set up by the French in 1828 and 1892 respectively. While Sri Bharathi was taken over by the National Textile Corporation in 1974, the administration of Swadeshi Mills went into the hands of NTC in 1985.

When the NTC decided to sell the mills to private players citing losses for the Corporation in 2005, the then government headed by the present Chief Minister N. Rangasamy managed to get back the reigns of the administration of the mill. Thus emerged Swadeshee-Bharathee Textile Mills (SBTM), after merging the two separate entities.

According to S. Nadarajan, veteran journalist, the mills were among the important industrial establishments in the Union Territory during the French rule.

During the heyday of the mills, nearly every family in the region had a person working in the two ventures. The AFT, Swadeshi and Bharathi together propelled the economic activity of the region, he said adding almost every family had a person working in the textile mills.

“People used to take pride in working in the mills. There is one street in Nellithope which is called Mill Street (Aalai theru). These mills were the main source of revenue for the people as well for the administration. Now, all the mills have become non functional,” he said.

According to former Member of Parliament M. Ramadass, the mills were revived after they were handed back to the Union Territory’s administration. The performance of the mills also gradually got improved but mismanagement, absence of labour participation in management and pricing policy led to their poor financial status.

Though there has been umpteen number of announcements by successive governments on plans to revive the fortunes of the mill, no clear plans emerged pushing trade unions, especially Left-backed organisations to launch several agitations in the past, to highlight the lacklustre approach of the administration in bringing back the entities to its past glory.

Finally, based on the recommendations of Vijayan Committee and a report by the Inspector of Factories, the Industries Department first filed an application with the Labour Department in April, 2020, to close the mills. Subsequently, closure notices were placed on the mill premises in September, same year. Around 40 workers approached the Madras High Court seeking its intervention in setting aside the closure order.

However, the Madras High Court last year directed the government to keep the closure order in abeyance till the 40 employees approach the Industrial Tribunal to redress their grievances. The government was also allowed by the Court to settle the claims of around 133 employees who did not object to the closure order.

“We have settled the dues of the 133 employees and subsequently issued an order to close both the mills by May 31. The decision to close down the mill was taken after getting the concurrence of Union Ministry of Home Affairs.,” a senior official told The Hindu.

The decision had drawn stiff opposition from AITUC and CITU with both organisations announcing their decision to intensify the agitation. They allege that the government hurried the decision without taking any serious measures to revive the mills.

According to a top official, the government cannot prolong a decision on the mills as every effort to revive the mills has backfired. After the administration of the mills were handed back to the Union Territory, the government had extended grant in-aid to the tune of ₹180 crore.

“We have an accumulated loss of about ₹160 crore. We want to explore various options, including setting up of a textile park and other ventures which could generate employment opportunity. The mills together has got around 25 acres of land in the town, which could be utilised for economic activity. There has been several enquiries, including from overseas entrepreneurs, for setting up industry,” he added

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Printable version | May 20, 2022 2:13:45 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/its-curtains-down-for-swadheshi-and-bharathi-textile-mills/article65430653.ece