Addressing a webinar organised by the Swarajya Magazine in association with Vedanta Resources earlier today (8 April), Union Textiles Minister Smriti Zubin Irani laid out her vision for India’s textile industry under the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan.
The minister began by stating that the prospects for the textile industry are bright and textile manufacturing opportunities in the country are aplenty. She highlighted that the Indian textile industry is now looking beyond the simple cloth and expanding to new sectors like technical textiles.
Irani said it is the first time in the history of the country that a concerted effort has been made by the government and the industry in the field of technical textiles.
The minister underlined that until recently, no manufacturing unit in India had manufactured end-to-end personal protective equipment or PPE suit. When Covid-19 hit and borders were closed, one thing that hindered the industry was the lack of machinery, and the government stepped in to help, the minister added.
“We had the Textile Ministry detailing the machine tool need of the textile industry, we had the External Affairs Ministry reach out to suppliers across the globe and then the Civil Aviation Ministry stepped up to ensure that the government flew down these machines to help meet the needs of the industry,” she said.
Irani said the government also ensured that there were adequate testing facilities.
“If you remember, in March we had just one lab, which was SITRA (or South India Textile Research Association) in Coimbatore. We then reached out to the Ministry of Defence and the DRDO and helped convert over eight additional labs in the country so that any and every organisation that could reorient could do so in every part of the country and there would be an easily accessible lab to test samples,” she added.
The Prime Minister has launched the National Technical Textiles Mission and dedicated over Rs 1,400 crore towards it, the minister noted.
“The production linked incentive scheme is particularly focused on MMF and technical textiles. It’s a Rs 10,000 crore bonanza so that those who are manufacturing in the MMF and technical textile industry can become globally competitive and leaders,” the minister said.
The government has mandated the use of technical textiles in 19 ministries.
Meeting The Machine Needs Of The Industry
Currently, most of the industry’s machine needs are met by imports.
The minister revealed that the Ministry of Textiles, under the guidance of Principal Scientific Advisor K Vijay Raghavan, has reached out to premier engineering institutions across the country, particularly IIT Chennai, to work on the indigenous production of machine tools needed by the textile industry.
“It is unfortunate that those machines are 80 per cent of the import burden in this particular segment. We are hoping that we can now encourage more and more of our engineering organisations to come forth,” Irani said.
She also highlighted the challenges the Ministry of Textiles is facing on this front.
“The challenge administratively is that machine tool making is not a part of the constitutional mandate of the Textiles Ministry. It is in these administrative gaps that the needs of the industry have been falling for a number of years now,” Irani noted.
Irani said that Textile Ministry recently enquired about a particular machine that the Central Silk Board needs and found out that it required 100 of these machines. She said that the ministry has already financed 75 of these machines for the Central Silk Board and another 25 are also being funded.
“Technology upgradation fund is available with the government of India. There is no dearth of funds. But what there is a dearth of is engineering companies that can meet the machine needs of our domestic textile manufacturers,” the minister added.
Strengthening The Handloom Sector
Irani said there was no current data on the number of people involved in the handloom sector and the government has done a census specifically dedicated to the handloom sector to fill this critical gap so that effective policies can be formulated.
The ministry, she said, has reached out to weavers and given them adequate identification cards. It is also ensuring that the weavers engage with the National Handloom Development Corporation where they can get 10 per cent subsidy for the yarn they purchase, the minister added.
“Additionally, we support them with market incentives, initiatives and engagements with foreign buyers. But I think what needs to be done and what we are hopeful of expanding on is the engagement with design institutions and the weaving community,” the Textiles Minister added.
Irani said the ministry is integrating the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) and its design ecosystem with weaver service centres.
“Across the country, out of the 28 weaver service centres, NIFT has already upgraded close to eight to ten of them. Our hope is that in the next one financial year, we complete all those weaver service centres,” she said.
According to the minister, the census in the weaving community showed that only 2 to 3 per cent of the community’s children were completing their education.
The Textiles Ministry, along with the National Institute of Open Schooling and Indira Gandhi National Open University is ensuring that the children in the community get an opportunity to complete their education. The government of India is taking care of 75 per cent of the fee so that more and more children can study, she said.
The ministry has onboarded over 1.5 lakh artisans, including weavers, onto the Government e-Marketplace or GeM so that governments and government-owned organisations can purchase products directly from them.
The minister also highlighted the government’s efforts to help weavers under the India Handloom Brand. She noted that the ministry has created partnerships between weaving clusters and big brands.
“We had Biba, which is a very well known female salwar-kameez brand tie up with a Pochampally cluster,” the minister said, giving an example.
Seven Mega Textile Parks
The minister said that the small textile parks functional in the country did not make production viable. The textile industry’s requirements for processing and packaging were fragmented throughout the country, she said, adding that the mega textile parks which will come up over the next few years will address this issue.
“The labour reforms that have been done in the Modi government are more than complementary for mega textile parks to come up. Most of the manufacturers in the textile industry were disintegrating their manufacturing units across the various states so that they could meet the labour regulations there,” Irani said.
“The industry desired that we want to do end-to-end manufacturing under one roof and hire nothing less than 3,000 to 5,000 people,” she noted, adding that the government has asked the states to meet infrastructure requirements.
Affordable electricity, labour reforms, land allocation, plug and play models with states are our priority engagements when we converse with states, she added.
National Textile Policy
The National Textile Policy is a work in progress, the minister said.
She noted labour and agriculture reforms had not been done by the government when the conversation on the issue began.
“Now these two historical reforms have been undertaken plus prospects such as PLI scheme have been pronounced. That is why you have a policy which is a work in progress,” Irani said, adding, “you could not have shared the policy and then post-facto said let’s wait for agriculture reforms, then wait for labour reforms”.
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