Mumbai: Union textile minister Dayanidhi Maran has lashed out at India’s textile industrialists for coming to the government with a “begging bowl” instead of taking steps to innovate.
He was speaking at a Tuesday roundtable, organized by the lobby group Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) as a platform for domestic textile makers to offer suggestions to the government.
“There is a chorus for government incentives and it looks as if this industry is losing money, but the fact is that we wouldn't have been in this hotel if this industry wasn’t making profit,” Maran said. The meeting was held at Mumbai’s five-star Hyatt Regency hotel.
Pointing out that the government had spent nearly Rs80,000 crore on the industry since 1999 through the Technology Upgradation Fund (TUF), Maran said the impact on the ground left much to be desired.
The minister also hinted that the government’s patience was wearing thin, saying, “We will accommodate as long as we see the progress. The TUF scheme is already getting tough for the textile ministry as we have overspent Rs1,500 crore from last year’s budget.”
He also criticized the industry for not contributing to technology in developing Bt Cotton. “(At the) End of the day the ball comes back to you because this is an unregulated industry. We need a technology mission and an honest effort,” he said.
About 50% of textiles made in India are exported to the United States and Europe. But demand has dropped there in the wake of the global economic downturn.
Maran expressed disappointment that the industry, which contributes only about 4% to total global exports, had done little to diversify into other markets.
Indian companies should also look at the domestic market, he said, estimating it to be worth $40 billion.
“We say that China gives undue advantage to their industry. But I am sure that one Chinese factory can handle all the production done by companies in this room,” Maran said.
His outburst took senior industry executives by surprise. T Kannan, managing director of Madurai-based Thiagarajar Mills Ltd and chairman of CII’s national committee on textiles, said the industry was “not used to” such ministers.
“Ministers normally come, give a speech and go away, we are not used to such talks,” he admitted.
“The minister wants us to look ahead, but he can’t say that the industry has done nothing. We have generated employment and the industry has developed because of people before us,” he told Mint after the meeting.