Revitalize the handloom sector
It is regrettable that a sector which has a major role in the lives of mass people in the country – the handloom sector – is a relatively neglected one. The figures suggest that the total demand for fabrics in the country is about 1676 million metres. Out of this demand, 63 per cent or 800 million metres are produced by the local handloom operators who make clothes used by common people in their every day life such as saris, lungis, gamchas, etc. Handloom industry is found to be next only to agriculture in creating employment in the rural areas. More than 10 million people are linked directly or indirectly with it.
This sector can be quickly uplifted in every sense to create jobs at the grassroots level where the same are badly needed. Besides, the handloom products can be a source of substantial foreign currency earnings. There is considerable scope for greater utilisation of the fabrics produced by the handloom sector in the export oriented ready-made garments (RMG) industries. Therefore, fabrics from the handlooms are helping vital value-addition in the RMG industries and this process can accelerate with more assistance channeled to the handloom operators. Fabrics known as Grameen Check, Dhaka Check and Aarong Check are already being produced by the handloom sector and used in the RMG industries. There used to be import dependence for such fabrics in the past. Skull caps, lungis, gamchas, bedsheets, bedcovers, etc., produced by the handloom sector are being exported directly to some Middle Eastern and South East Asian countries. The handloom sector has a great deal of potential for further value addition in the RMG sector, for further meeting local needs of fabrics and expanding sales of its products directly in foreign countries. But at the moment, this is a relatively less assisted sector and a media report sometime ago stated that 37.6 per cent of the handlooms are not operational.
This stagnation in the handlooms sector calls for more focused attention to its problems by the government in view of its all round prospects. Apart from its possibilities in greater foreign currency earnings, it can be a source of expanding employment in rural areas where unemployment is a big problem. Handloom workers are generally poor and this sector’s vitality can lead to improvement in the earnings of workers on a large scale-who are at the fringes of social existence-by alleviating their poverty. Rural women are hard pressed to find suitable and gainful employment. The expanding handloom sector can be a source of such employment for them.
The main problem of the handloom sector is one of credit. Institutional credits can hardly be accessed by most of them. Whatever credits currently trickle down to section of the handloom industry are considered to be not so useful for the weavers who are required to service their debts regularly with high interests rates under a monthly payment system. Clearly, the interest rate needs to be scaled down adequately and the mode of repayment should be also made flexible together with substantial increases in the total amount of credits to be disbursed among a much bigger number of borrowers to make a positive impact .The black marketing of imported fabrics of the RMG sector in the local market and the smuggling in of handloom products also create undue competition for the local handloom sector. Polices and actions from the government are required to deal effectively with these problems.