"I have written to the Prime Minister, requesting him to extend the Mahatama Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) to the entire textile sector. We will also take up the issue of some necessary labour reforms with the labour ministry so that workers benefit," Gangwar said.
Currently, the MGNREGS is extended only to the silk segment. Last year, the then textile minister, KS Rao, had also supported the idea, but couldn't do much.
DK Nair, the secretary-general of the Confederation Of the Indian Textile Industry, said: "One of the ways the MGNREGS could be implemented is that textile units would provide training as well as work to the labourers. The government would provide the minimum wage, as stipulated under the scheme, while the industry may offer some more, depending upon the work."
With such a move, a labour shortage can be addressed, especially in garment factories, as temporary workers are not allowed under the current law, he said. Importantly, even unskilled workers would be imparted proper training, much to their benefit, he added.
Garment factories, especially the relatively smaller ones, often face problems as orders from overseas are mostly seasonal but they have to keep workers on payroll even during the off-season. Such a policy, sometimes, prompts them to even cancel orders, fearing legal action if they decide to lay off the additional workers after the peak season is over. "In a country where so many people are without jobs, blocking employment opportunities, even if temporary, is not prudent, Nair added.
National textile policy to be out this month
Gangwar said his ministry has received the textile vision document, prepared by the Ajay Shankar committee, which envisaged textile and garment exports growing to a $300 billion by 2024-25 from around $39 billion in the last fiscal. The document was the result of a review of the National Textile Policy, 2000, which, Gangwar said, would be finalised in August itself after factoring in comments from stakeholders.
Higher exports would double the employment opportunity in the sector to 70 million by 2014-15. However, for these to happen, the country not just needs roughly $120 billion in investment by 2024-25 but also suitably reviews existing laws, especially labour laws.
Already, the Cabinet on Wednesday approved amendments to the Factories Act, 1948, which is expected allow women for night duty with adequate safety and provision for transport after work. The amendments also aim to double the overtime hours for wiling workers to 100 hours per quarter. It is proposed that this limit can be raised to a maximum of 125 hours per quarter in public interest with the approval of state government. These amendments, once implemented, would benefit the textile and garments sector, which has long been demanding relaxation in these archaic norms.
The minister said a road map on setting up seven textile mega clusters and textile parks would also be finalised in August.