ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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What Will Save Powerlooms

Powerlooms, the small man's big business in Maharashtra, are in trouble, soon after they had been emancipated at last of bothersome official restrictions on installation and operation. Just as the Textile Com-missioner announced almost free en-try into the industry on the payment of a registration fee of Rs 100, devaluation led to a rise of about 25 per cent in the prices of yarn delivered by mills.

Powerlooms, the small man's big business in Maharashtra, are in trouble, soon after they had been emancipated at last of bothersome official restrictions on installation and operation. Just as the Textile Com-missioner announced almost free en-try into the industry on the payment of a registration fee of Rs 100, devaluation led to a rise of about 25 per cent in the prices of yarn delivered by mills. Since cloth prices have (mercifully for the consumer) remain-ed practically constant, this rise in yarn costs has practically knocked off the relative excise advantage en-joyed by powerlooms and has uncov-ered once again the handicaps under which this section of the cotton tex-tile industry works. The majority of weavers in Maharashtra are on strike in protest against this rise in yarn prices. The fact that they provide about one-fourth of the total cloth output is their main bargaining counter.

About 80 per cent of the country's powerlooms, which is the traditional expression for what are really weav-ing mills, are in Maharashtra. Most of the yarn consumed by them, as the Ashok Mehta Committee found, is of the finer varieties which are spun largely from imported cottons. Composite mills have been giving up the production of dhotis and saris, which account, for the bulk of fine yarn utilisation, partly because of statutory restrictions but mainly be-cause such production is no longer as profitable as it used to be. It is powerlooms which have benefited most from this change and, incident-ally, prevented a cloth famine, which would have come about as a result of restrictions on expansion of mill loomage and sentimental reliance upon handlooms.
While there is a lot to be said in favour of powerlooms, the principal source of weakness in their econo-mic operation lies in their dispro-portionate use of fine yarn and, there-fore. dependence upon imported cot-ton. It is this problem which should have received primary attention. In-stead, great noise has always been made about such secondary matters as excise differentials between mill and powerloom cloth, evasion of duties and restrictions on power-looms, use of secondhand and/or in-ferior looms, merchant control over weavers and the need (felt mainly by sympathisers, not the weavers) to
reduce the powerlooms* dependence upon mill supplies.
The main problem of powerloom now is not irksome restrictions (which have been mostly removed) or setting up of their own spinning or processing units on a co-operative basis (which appear logically super-fluous when the industry is establish-ed on a vertically disintegrated pat-tern) but a shift to a different pattern of production which would reduce the dependence upon Imported cotton. In this respect, their present equip-ment is more suited to the production of fabrics of greater width. Since yarn prices can hardly be brought down by the Textile Commissioner's fiat or the remote possibility of ICMF compassion—there has been a gen-uine rise in cotton costs—the only remedy, if powerlooms are to be saved and cloth supplies maintained, lies in widening the excise advantage of powerlooms in medium fabrics.

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