The Indian textiles ministry has approached the rural development ministry once again, seeking inclusion of handloom weavers under the government rural job scheme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), informed a senior government official.
Acting in support of the handloom weavers, the textiles ministry argues that even though the weavers are not unskilled workers, they earn much less than what an unskilled worker does. But they have refused to give up on this profession only because of family tradition and the “love for the art”.
The official said that economically, the weavers belong to the “bottom of the pyramid”, and the average daily income for many of them often falls below the mandatory wage provided to unskilled workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). Under the scheme, the workers are given a standard wage in the range of Rs 159-Rs 241 a day, depending on States and Union Territories, for 100 days a year.
Previously, when the textile ministry approached the rural development ministry, its request to extend the MGNREGS benefits to handloom weavers was turned down, based on the fact handloom weavers are skilled workers.
The handloom sector provides employment to 4.33 million people across 2.38 million handlooms in the country and accounts for 11 per cent of India’s textile production.
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At present, only silk farming from the textile segment is covered under the MGNREGS. The textile ministry, however, has been seeking extension of the MGNREGS to the entire textile and garment sector.
Advocating for the inclusion of handloom weavers in MGNREGS, D K Nair, Secretary General, Confederation of Indian Textile Industry (CITI), said, “The industry can provide training as well as work to people and seek reimbursement from the government. All that the government needs to do is to provide the minimum wage for 100 days, as stipulated under the scheme. The textile or garment unit concerned can pay more, depending on the work, and it has to bear the entire wage cost for work beyond the 100 days mandated by the scheme.”
Such a move can help tackle labour shortage in the sector, especially in the more labour-intensive garment factories. Most importantly, even unskilled workers would be given proper training, much to their benefit, he added.