India - Textile sector loses 1L workers to NREGA in 5 years
Dated- 13 Apr , 2012 - India
The country's biggest man-made fibre industry in the city, which contributes to about 40 per cent of the nation's man-made fabric demand, is facing an acute shortage of workers.
A huge chunk of skilled workers from states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh employed in the weaving and processing sectors have shifted to their hometowns in the last five years due to National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) and other central government schemes that provide doorstep employment opportunities.
Industry estimates peg the current shortage of workers in the skilled category at over 1 lakh. However, SMEs in the weaving and textile processing sectors warn that the demand-supply gap is widening fast and could assume the proportions of a crisis if left unaddressed.
Out of the total 3.5 lakh workers in the weaving sector, about 95 per cent are falls in the skilled category. In the textile processing and embroidery sectors, which employs about 2.5 lakh workers, about 30 per cent falls in the skilled category. In the last five years, about 60,000 skilled workers from weaving sectors and 40,000 workers from other sectors have shifted to their hometowns due to improved employment opportunities.
"The NREGA scheme has definite created a shortage of skilled workers in weaving and processing sectors," chairman, Federation of Indian Art Silk Weaving Industry (FIASWI), Arun Jariwala told TOI.
"The scheme has made employment opportunities available in rural areas. Workers are therefore not keen to migrate out of their villages like before. Even though they may be earning less in their native place, they are content. It allows them to stay together with their families. Also, the cost of living in villages is cheaper compared to the high cost of living in city like Surat," he added.
Industry leaders have made a strong representation to the ministry of textiles to address the problem of the workers' shortage due to NREGA.
During the visit of minister of state for textile Panabaaka Lakshmi in the city on Wednesday, the industry leaders, including FIAWSI and the Federation of Gujarat Weavers' Association (FOGWA), made a representation to discourage the skilled workers participating in the NREGA schemes in their villages.
A policy should be devised to affiliate the NREGA scheme with the textile industry for providing higher wages to the workers.
"Our skilled labourers are joining NREGA schemes in their hometowns. We want the central government to affiliate the scheme with the industry where skilled workers would get Rs130 per day under NREGA and the average wage of Rs 250 per day from the textile industry. However, an average skilled worker could earn Rs 380 per day," FOGWA president Ashok Jirawala said.
Convener of Bihar Vikas Parishad (BVP) K K Sharma said, "Hundreds of Bihari workers employed in the textile sector have shifted to their hometowns due to NREGA. More recently, migration of unskilled workers has slowed down because of developmental projects in Bihar. The fall in supply of unskilled workers is affecting SMEs more than large industries as the former has less paying capacity."