Manchester of Maharashtra gets weavers’ share

The only mention Maharashtra got in Pranab Mukherjee's Budget speech was that of Ichalkaranji in Kolhapur district, home to one of the oldest textile industries in the country. Mukherjee declared a budgetary allocation of Rs 70 crore for a powerloom mega cluster in Ichalkaranji town.

Ichalkaranji, popular as the 'Manchester of Maharashtra', has about 25 yarn units with about 1.25 lakh powerlooms, 20,000 semi-automatic looms and 7,000 shuttle-less looms, apart from numerous power and handprocessing houses. The town produces one crore metres of yarn everyday that translates into a business of Rs 40 crore a day. Of the total production, 15 per cent is directly exported while another 40 per cent is for indirect export after processing. According to locals, over 50,000 weavers depend on their livelihood working in the powerlooms in town.

The weaver community was overwhelmed by the mention of Ichalkaranji in the Finance Minister's speech and welcomed the cluster which, they say, will help them fare better in the global market.

"Once the word-class infrastructure for the cluster is set up, we would be able to attract global buyers," said Satish Koshti, president of the Ichalkaranji Powerloom Weavers Co-operative Association.

"For several years now, we have been facing severe shortage of skilled labourers. The fund will be used to train local men. New powerloom units will be set up in several new villages on the outskirts of town. These villages will require basic infrastructure," said Koshti.

According to Prakash Awade, former Maharashtra Textile Minister who is believed to have been on the forefront in the efforts to set up the cluster, the total cost of the project is estimated to be Rs 175 crore. 40 per cent of which (Rs 70 crore) is now granted by the Union Government under Comprehensive Cluster Development Scheme. The remaining Rs 105 crore would be raised by the industries in the cluster.

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