Surat: Textile hub shut half the week, works one shift only

The textile industry of Surat, which sustains the families of nearly 10 lakh people directly or indirectly linked with it, has ground to a near halt since November 8, the day after it had opened on the conclusion of the Diwali vacations. The cash crunch has forced textile and powerloom units to shut at least three days in the week and do away with the night shift entirely, causing what industry insiders say is an 80 per cent loss. The textile business has an annual turnover of nearly Rs 350 crore.

The South Gujarat Textile Processing Federation will plead with Union Textiles Minister Smriti Irani, who is visiting Gujarat Saturday, to bail the industry out of the crisis.

Surat has over 165 textile markets with 65,000 textile trading shops, 350 textile processing houses, and over 6 lakh powerloom machines.

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The units had shut for Diwali on October 31. Insiders say that after reopening, it takes two to three days to rev up the machines and for production to return to its original momentum. The bulk of the workforce is with dyeing and printing units in the textile processing houses, with the powerloom sector, and with packaging and unloading in the trading sector. Most of the workers employed in this industry are migrants from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. They are paid about Rs 200 a day and get double if they work on night shifts. The wages are paid in two instalments a month.

Said Jitu Vakharia, president of the Federation of South Gujarat Textile Processing Association, “In view of the situation, we are not in a position to give salaries to workers in notes other than Rs 500 and Rs 1,000. Some factory owners use their old savings of other denomination notes while some have even bought Rs 100 and Rs 50 notes from markets at higher rates. But most factory owners do not have enough cash to run the factory and meet daily expenses.”

He added that many workers did not show up at work because they were queuing up in banks or had gone back home with whatever savings they had, so the processing houses were running for only three or four days a week.

Vakharia said he had also heard about clashes between workers and factory owners over disbursing salary in the old currency notes. “The average production of processing houses per day is around 4 lakh crore metres which is now down to below one crore metres. The textile workers also take leave for a day or more to stand in long queues outside the banks to change Rs 500 notes.”

He emphasised that small currency was necessary for the industry and that the workers were not accepting the new Rs 2,000 notes. “We will request the Union minister to arrange for a regular cash flow into the textile industry,” said Vakharia.

Powerlooms too ran barely four days in the week and in one shift only. Even trading shops, which used to open from 10.30 am to 9 pm, are now closing at 6 pm for want of business, said Federation of Surat Textile Traders Associations president Manoj Agrawal. “Local sales have gone down as have exports. The annual turnover of the textile trading business is around Rs 350 crore. Buyers from other states have cancelled bookings. Currently the industry is facing a loss of 80 per cent of the business expected after Diwali. Generally after Diwali, it is the beginning of the wedding season and the festive season in south India and we get good business, but not this time,” said Agrawal.

The ancillary transport business too has been hit and trucks are idling in godowns. Surat Textile Goods Transport Association Yuvraj Deshle said, “We aren’t getting delivery orders from textile traders. We too are struggling, as we have to pay labourers and truck drivers daily.”

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