“Aap mujhe Rs 500 de do, mai mere biwi aur bachon ke sath gaon chala jaunga. Pehli tareekh se mill bandh hai. Mere paas jo thode paise the, ghar ka kiraya de diya. Abhi mere paas khane ke paise bhi nhi hai… (Give me Rs 500. I’ll return to my village with my wife and kids. The mill is closed since July 1. Whatever little money I had, I gave it as house rent. Now, I don’t even have money to feed my family),” said Vikram Singh (32), a labourer from Uttar Pradesh who worked in a Surat processing (cloth dyeing and printing) unit.
This is the plight of lakhs of labourers, working in powerlooms and processing units, who are being rendered jobless as the mills remain shut shops due to the ongoing strike Surat textile traders against Goods and Services Tax (GST). The powerlooms will join the strike from Sunday. The powerlooms manufacture grey bales (weaved cloth), which are purchased by textile traders who send it to the processing units for dying and printing.
Most of the traders have stopped purchasing raw material from weavers due to which, the powerlooms, which used to run 24×7, are now shutting shops.
Mahendra Ramolia, secretary, FOGWA, said they never witnessed such a situation. “If we go directly to the processing houses for raw material, they demand the GST registration number.” He added there was just 10 per cent to 15 per cent production in Surat powerloom industry till Saturday. “The traders are also not clear about the new tax system. They are in wait-and-watch mode.”
He fears lakhs of workers will become unemployed. “Those from other states will go back. It will become difficult for us to get them back to Surat when the situation turns normal.”
On the other hand, there are around 350 processing units in Surat where over three lakh people, hailing from UP, Bihar, Orissa, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and other states, work. Their daily turnover is approximately Rs 70 crore.
With the ongoing strike by the GST Sangharsh Samithi, which started from June 15, the textile processing houses have almost no business. Sources said till now the printing mills were running with leftover stock.
As days are passing by, it is becoming difficult to keep the mills open with no supply of fresh stock. As a result, around 70 per cent of the factories are closed. They started shutting down since July 1. Those functioning are keeping weekly two to three days offs.
Singh, a resident of Bhadohi district in UP, said, “Millwale bol nhi rahe hai kab khulega (The mill owners are not saying when it will reopen),” said the father of two.
Jitu Vakhariya, president of South Gujarat Textile Processors Association, said there is a shortage in supply of raw material, because of which it has become difficult for them to run the factories. “If we keep the factories open, we have to bear other expenses.”
“At present, 70 per cent of the factories are closed and in next couple of days the percentage will go up,” he said, adding the textile processing factories have started applying for GST registrations.