Struggling to get fresh orders amid sluggish demand, textile units in India’s biggest man-made fabrics (MMF) manufacturing hub in Surat have asked their daily wage workers to take unpaid extended Diwali vacation till mid-November.
Conventionally, Surat textile units keep their activities shut for three to five days after Diwali every year, with Gujarati New Year closely following the festival of lights. This year, however, these units, especially weavers, processors and embroidery manufacturers, have decided to shut activities for a longer period of time.
“This Diwali season was an utter failure for the textile industry in Surat. Compared to the previous season, aggregate business was down by almost 40%. Though the marriage season will start from the second week of November, very few orders are coming. Over 300 textile markets have been closed since October 25 and will open from the second week of November only,” says Dev Kishan Mangani, advisor, textile committee, South Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SGCCI).
The situation of weaving units is even more dire as out of nearly 1 million power looms, hardly 100,000 have started operations and the rest will remain closed, says Vijay Mangukiya, president of Surat Weavers Association. “This is the first time in the history of Surat’s textile industry that weaving units will remain closed for a fortnight due to extremely low demand,” Mangukiya said, adding, “Ahead of Diwali festivities, we have told workers to go on longer Diwali vacation as there is no work. With almost a 90% cut in supply of grey fabrics, hopefully traders will be able to clear some older inventory after the Diwali period.”
As the majority of the workforce in weaving and processing units are on daily wages, these units wouldn’t have any burden of paying salaries to them in the case of no production activities. Generally, weaving units pay Rs 2 to Rs 4.5 per meter to their workers, he said.
Surat-based processing units have also decided to extend Diwali vacation to a fortnight. Jitu Vakharia, president of South Gujarat Textile Processors Association (SGTPA), says that there are no new jobs as weavers have been compelled to go on a long Diwali vacation. Embroidery units in Surat have announced 20 days of Diwali vacation, said Hitesh Bhikadiya, president of Textile Embroidery Job workers’ Association (TEJAS).
Apart from sluggish markets, embroidery units are facing issues of payments and increasing cost of raw material. Naresh Sharma, president of Ahmedabad Textile Processors Association, says that instead of a three-day holiday, processors in Ahmedabad, too, have announced a 15-day Diwali vacation as there is no new work. “Spinners and weavers are waiting for the arrival of fresh cotton. In anticipation of a further cut in cotton prices, they have almost stopped production of yarn and fabric. We are expecting new orders for processing by the third week of November,” claims Sharma.
With an almost Rs 80,000-crore annual turnover, Surat alone produces nearly 40 million metres of fabric per day and processes more than 30 million metres of fabric on a daily basis. The highly labour-intensive weaving, processing and embroidery units provide jobs to more than 1.5 million people.