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

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No Cure for Textile Ills


Textiles account 13 per cent of value added in domestic manufacturing, employ the second largest number of people after agriculture and still contribute one-third of India’s export earnings. The industry is slated to undergo major changes in 2005 when the current system of quotas that governs international trade in textiles gives way to freer trade. There is widespread apprehension that India’s textile industry might actually suffer rather than gain when quotas disappear. A comprehensive policy is needed to address this apprehension and induce dynamism in a vital sector of the economy. Judged from this perspective, the new textile policy announced by the government is disappointing.

The industrial revolution narrowed India’s time-honoured lead in textiles to fine fabrics, British mill cloth replacing other varieties. Colonial policy, of overvaluing the rupee till the mid-twenties of the last century and offering minimal tariff protection, impeded the growth of the modern mill industry in India. However, the industry thrived during the run-up to World War II and while carrying out war production. So much so that Japan, undertaking post-War reconstruction, fretted about the wisdom of taking up textiles as a thrust area where it would have to take on the might of India. Fortunately for Japan, independent India bestowed on its thriving textile sector all the burden of irrational corporate and labour laws and controls and restrictions. India’s textile prosperity became a thing of the past. Other countries of the subcontinent, heir to the same rich legacy as India’s in textiles, saw their textile industries modernise faster than India’s did.

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