It is heartening to learn that traditional crafts like Handlooms and Handicrafts are being accorded the right attention by your Ministry. How would you envision their prospects and growth in the next 5 years?
Handloom and Handicrafts sectors are part of our heritage and are assets, which must be preserved, not only for their heritage value but from the point of view of rendering employment across the rural hubs of the country. Though I realize the underlying challenges to improve handloom and handicrafts sectors technologically, to provide greater design inputs and to have improved marketing channels; yet, we are now taking right initiatives to surmount the prevailing challenges gradually. Private industry can be a major partner in enabling this transition of handlooms and handicrafts from low value to high value products. Enabling this transition is high on my Ministry’s agenda.
We have taken certain measures which have short term as well as long term gains in the offing. Government has notified development of six centres as mega clusters, viz. Varanasi and Sibsagar for handlooms, Bhiwandi and Erode for powerlooms and Narsapur and Moradabad for handicrafts as a Central Sector Plan Scheme. Additionally, scheme of mega clusters at carpet producing areas of Mirzapur, Bhadohi and Srinagar have already been announced which will all add up to boost the prospect of the marginal, small and medium businesses from these two vital employment generating sectors.
Having social relevance, we have also embarked on the ambitious health insurance scheme for weavers and their families which will go a long way in ameliorating their overall quality of life and general welfare.
Authenticity of handloom products is taken care of by tagging handloom mark labels on handloom products. This also goes for Silk Mark where an industry which has shown erosion of traditional crafts and legacy is getting a big helping hand from government as well as buyers from across the globe.
We are working on the sectoral value chain by ensuring that raw materials are available to the weavers. In our cluster approach, we are setting up common facility centres that will offer all the solutions like designing, dyeing, printing, processing and packing. Government thorough schemes like Market Development Assistance helps and encourages small exporters to participate at national and international level trade fairs where they can meet global and local buyers and sell their products directly to the buyers and retailers eliminating the middle men. Thus, we see tremendous growth in the ensuing years in so far as preservation and promotion of our ancient crafts and designs are concerned.
Sir, textile exports has been a grave matter for concern for India and exporters have been demanding sops (stimulus package) to continue in the current scenario. Media also has recently reported your Government directing exporters to ‘stop coming with a begging bowl’ for export sops. Sir, what is your stance on this issue?
Government has always been supporting all constituents of the textiles sectors in an unbiased manner. During the economic downturn, it was very evident that certain export sectors required sops and after due representation, Honourable Prime Minister and the Finance Minister readily agreed to release TUFS and other reliefs for our industries.
Today, we have come out of recession rather unscathed and it is time that exporters stand up and be counted to earn valuable foreign exchange for our country. Global markets are opening and they should venture out to explore in a big way. Here too, Government assistance has already been extended since some time now. I would rather say that we need to work hard and put sincere efforts to remove the shackles of seeking some or the other relief and focus at grabbing larger market share. Let them be generous and allow Government to extend more and definitive support to other lagging sectors within the industry, which can get equal opportunity to grow.
What is your observation on the performance of textile SEZ, Parks and Cluster Schemes? Would you like to seek a change in policy on any of them on account of any deficiency or wish to continue for now?
If Indian exports have to be competitive, there is an urgent need to ensure availability of well-developed, quality infrastructure which is imperative for the overall economic development of a country. Infrastructure services are intermediate inputs to production and any reduction in these input costs raises the profitability of production; thus, permitting higher levels of output, income and employment. Bringing wide range of infrastructure facilities in the country to international standards will require massive investments and endeavours. The SITP provides the industry an opportunity to set up world class infrastructure facilities for textiles units. It is based on Public Private Partnership (PPP) model and is implemented through a Special Purpose Vehicles (SPV), where Industry, Associations/Group of Entrepreneurs are the main promoters. The Government of India’s support by way of Grant or Equity is limited to 40% of the project cost for infrastructure components subject to a ceiling of Rs. 40 crore.
The initiatives taken by the Government has already set in the pace of development and is bound to produce desired results in the times to come.
DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.