Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Agony and Ecstasy of Malegaon’s Weavers

A Labourer in a powerloom factory
Rhetoric vs. Reason

Now that Malegaon has finally been declared as MIDC D+ zone, the flirtations of Maharashtra government with the imagination of weavers are over. The burning issue of D+ zone had been there on the platter for quite sometime. If Mr. Ramesh Jamtani, Advisor (Industry), to Planning Commission, is to be believed Mr. Vilasrao Deshmukh, the chief minister of Maharashtra took almost two months just to sign a readymade document!

We Muslims have always been short on reason and long on rhetoric. Instead of digging into the details as to what MIDC D+ holds for Malegaon, the unimportant debate of ‘whodunit’ has become dominant amongst masses. Striving hard is a Muslim’s duty. Taking credit is a politician’s specialty.

My point is simple: How many of you know that there is a sub-category in D+ zone? There are three types of categorization in D+ zone: Mini Industrial Area, Major Industrial Area and Growth Centre. Does ‘Mini Industrial area’ means that weavers will get less subsidy as compared to ‘Major Industrial area’? In what way ‘Growth Centre’ differs from ‘Mini Industrial area’?

In a ‘Mini Industrial Area’, one can avail off the subsidy in the prescribed area only which is selected by the MIDC. While in a ‘Growth Centre’, the entire area will fall under the cover of subsidy no matter where it is located. The devil is in the details. Icchalkaranji enjoys the status of a ‘Growth Centre’. Malegaon too should enjoy the same status otherwise it will be considered as a political ploy just to please illiterate weavers.

These are pertinent issues which require reason rather than rhetoric.

Subjugation vs. Supremacy

The entire setup of Malegaon’s powerloom industry is such that the weavers are in a catch-22 situation. All raw materials needed for the powerloom industry are procured from different yarn mills located all across the country except one mill. Viz. Malegaon Spinning Mill. To facilitate the inflow of raw materials, various traders and intermediaries have sprung up thus adding to the cost of the raw materials. The grey-fabrics manufactured on Powerlooms are semi-finished goods and require further processing. These semi-finished goods are sold at various processing centres mainly at Pali, Jedhpur, Balmer and Balotra in Rajasthan, Mathura in UP, Kolkata in West Bengal, Surat and Ahmedabad in Gujarat, Mumbai etc. To facilitate this outflow, intermediaries enter in the picture again.

Weavers are heavily dependent on raw material merchants and traders for purchase and sale of their goods. The weak weaver with low purchasing power is always caught in this vicious cycle of exploitation. The concept of price-control mechanism does not function in Malegaon. (That reminds me of TRAI – Telecom Regulatory Authority of India or SEBI – Securities Exchange Board of India. Both government bodies work as a watchdog). Middleclass/poor weavers are literally forced to make payment within a stipulated time. If weavers don’t make payment within the specified period as directed by the traders, they have to pay interest on the principal amount. (Interestingly interest is mischievously called LP. i.e. Late Payment. LP is a typical Malegaon jargon.)

Tanweer Fazal sums up the Malegaon’s weaving community thus:

“That Malegaon is a town populated by weavers has not helped. Call it the darker side of globalisation or sheer governmental apathy, weavers across the country are seeing the dwindling of their businesses. Most of them happen to be Muslims, Ansaris or Julahas, as they are called. Dearth of government orders, shortage of yarn, inadequate marketing and credit facilities, erratic power supply and stranglehold of Marwaris and banias have contributed to their impoverishment. It is this everyday brutality of deliberate state neglect and unrelenting suspicion that violates their dignity.”

A Blueprint for Future

A whopping 358 crores has been proposed for the development of country’s powerloom sector in the 11th Five Year Plan. Out of 358 crores, a major chunk (250 crores) will be spent on Modernized Group Workshed Scheme. This scheme specially suits the weavers of Malegaon. Under the scheme industrial clusters with potential will be targeted to attain economies of large scale for business operations. The benefit under the scheme includes 40 percent unit cost of construction or Rs.120 per sq.ft. whichever is lower. Under Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme (TUFS), the government is even willing to delink 20% Credit Link Capital Subsidy (CLCS) from interest to suit the religious requirements of Muslims. One of the worrying factors for weavers is that TUFS has been revised but the norm for powerloom sector will be automatic looms and not the existing semi-automatic looms. This issue needs to be addressed seriously. If we don’t lean towards modernization soon, powerlooms will be a thing of the past.

Central textile ministry is even offering for Market Development Assistance and Exposure Visits. A total of 30 crores have been proposed for the same in the 11th Five Year Plan. This includes organizing exhibitions, buyer-seller meet and promotion of the goods prepared on powerlooms. The basic objective is to showcase powerloom products to the consuming industry and to enable powerloom weavers to receive consumer feedback and produce the products as per the requirements of the consuming industry. The Exposure visit aims at changing the mindset of the weavers and encourages them towards modernization.

The Road Ahead

With 1, 25, 000 plain shuttle looms, weavers of Malegaon must come forward to face the onslaught of modernization. No community can progress unless it is economically empowered. D+ zone is the best opportunity for weavers to free themselves from the imposed economic bondage of greedy merchants. For how long we will operate obsolete and outdated looms? Change is inevitable and embracing change is in the interests of weavers. If we are not ready for the change yet, then we must be ready to sell our powerlooms as scraps. And that is the most painful thing for a Julaha (weaver).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This sure has been an issue for a long time and ofcourse is going to remain till one and half generation exists.

The city needs some one who holds them by shoulder shaking and shouting about their development

Lets pray to Allah for sooner change, A Change that brings about the moral, social, ethical,economical,cultural,and ofcourse ancesstral light upside down on them.