Silk Board's initiatives on HRD

CHENNAI, MAY 20. The Central Silk Board (CSB), Bangalore, proposes to undertake a cluster-wise human resource development (HRD) programme for the workforce in the highly decentralised silk industry in the wake of heightening of competition in both the domestic and foreign markets.

The programme aims at eliminating ``primitive practices'' in various stages of the value chain, from rearing of cocoons to reeling, weaving, dyeing and garment making, that have characterised the industry, which has survived mainly on the strength of domestic and foreign ethnic demand for saris.

Issues on skill upgradation in the industry were discussed here on Saturday at a seminar, the first in a nationwide series, organised by the CSB under the three-year-old Nodal Centre for Upgradation of Textile Education (NCUTE). (It is set to be renamed as the National Centre for UTE by the year-end).

The Union Minister for Textiles, Mr. Dhananjaya Kumar, who inaugurated the seminar, said that despite China reducing its production of silk, the U.S. market, the world's largest, was dominated to the extent of 70 per cent by China/Hong Kong, followed at a distance by Italy (14 per cent) and India (four per cent). The package of practices in this predominantly cottage- based industry needed to be improved and made more technology- intensive. Institutions such as polytechnics and industrial training institutes (ITIs) should take up skill development of the industry's workforce through short-term courses.

Mr. Dinesh Himatsingka, of Himatsingka Seide, one of the few units in the organised sector in the industry, which has made a big success of exports of powerloom-woven silk fabric and value- added products, emphasised that the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, should be relied on as the most appropriate institution for developing design capabilities, including woven designs, as distinct from printed ones. It was designs which provided the highest value addition to fabric.

Design development should not be based on indigenous culture but should be adopted to the global market. ``Japan has not attained global leadership in textiles by promoting kimonos abroad'', he said.

Mr. S. Kamakoti, a leading silk producer of Tamil Nadu, pointed to the low level of manufacturing practices. In practice, yarn was ``coated'' rather than ``dyed'', and was subjected to wringing by hand. Use of the hand rather than stirrers in dyeing, and weavers touching the fabric with soiled hands were common practices. Theft of yarn and use of starch to make up the weight was not uncommon. Little attention was paid to smoothness of silk product surface, Mr. Kamakoti said.

Prof. A. K. Gupta, Coordinator, NCUTE (www.ncute.com), said though India was the second largest producer of silk, accounting for 18 per cent of global output, it faced many problems like shortage of raw material and low-end technologies.

Mr P. Joy Oommen, Member-Secretary, CSB, said the State governments, despite several requests by the board, were persisting with restrictions on rearers and reelers which prevented the development of integrated silk units.

Dr. T. H. Somashekar, Director, Central Silk Technological Research Institute CSTRI), Bangalore, said the introduction of ``multi-end reeling technology'' during the Ninth Plan was a major intervention in response to the shift in consumer preference towards finer and lighter varieties. The recent introduction of high-yielding bivoltine hybrids coupled with the institute's multi-end technology, and establishment of common facility centres and eco-testing facilities held a lot of promise for the Indian silk industry.

Mr. S. V. Shankar, Director, National Institute of Fashion Technology, Chennai, said the latest Exim Policy provided for 15 per cent DEPB rate and 3.5 per cent duty drawback for readymade garments made wholly or mainly of silk, and 13 per cent and 3.5 per cent, respectively, for made-ups.

Talking to presspersons, the minister, Mr. Dhananjaya Kumar, said the garments industry ``refused to understand'' that the levy of excise duty on garments was intended to enable the government to levy countervailing duty on imports and thus protect the domestic industry. He said the Centre would have no objection to making Tirupur an export zone as demanded by the Tirupur Exporters' Association, but a proposal should be forwarded by the State government for this purpose.