What do Bhiwandi’s Power Loom Owners Want From 2019 Polls?
“None on the government’s policies have been successful in Bhiwandi,” say power loom owners.
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Once buzzing with the sound of spinning yarns, the power looms in Maharashtra’s Bhiwandi have now fallen mostly silent. First, dealing with demonetisation that forced an entire sector that had been heavily cash driven to go digital overnight and then came GST that struck a double whammy. Bhiwandi’s power loom sector no longer yields the robust business it did till about five years ago.
“I owned about 120 looms but I had to sell them. My business is completely finished. I have been running my business for 20 years but now it’s finished. My turnover used to be around Rs 5-6 crores. Now, my turnover is nothing. I am working at another place right now,” said Muzammil Hajwani, a former loom owner.
Once, a booming industry with 9 lakh looms, today, Bhiwandi has barely 3.24 lakh looms left. Owners attribute the decline in business to the shoddy implementation of demonetisation and GST.
“Because of GST and noteban, we couldn’t pay our workers on time as we didn’t receive it on time. Banks used to ask us to come the next day, day after day. My business kept going down bit by bit. I ended up selling my looms. I had bought it for Rs 75,000 and ended up selling it for Rs 22,000-23,000.”Momin Shahid, former power loom owner
Loom owner Sarosh Fakih adds that fluctuating GST rates too did nothing to help the industry that was already crumbling. “Six months after demonetisation there was GST. It was a very vacillating GST because from 18 percent slab it went to 12 percent and then after a few months, it came back to getting a refund. As and when the government became aware of the bad situation in the industry, it did try to rectify but it was a case of too little, too late,” he said.
Despite many attempts to go cashless, Bhiwandi hasn’t been able to go completely digital.
“The labour refuses to accept any kind of electronic payment flat out. They say, we will be working for you for two days, give us our money and let us leave. That’s it. Some of the local contractors who do odd jobs on contract basis in factories have started accepting cheques but overall the scene is that they don’t want to keep their money in the bank.”Sarosh Fakih, Power loom owner
The MERC decision to increase power tariffs in September 2018, further added to the burden of power loom owners. In some cases, loom owners have ended up paying thrice the amount they used to before the increase in tariffs.
“In Maharashtra, we pay Rs 1,200 per loom for power whereas, if you go to UP, they pay Rs 75 per loom. You can see the rate difference here. I have a 24-loom unit, I used to get a bill of Rs 23,000-25,000 per month but soon after MERC issued a guidance to increase tariff, there were changes in the methodology. My power bill from October started coming up to Rs 80,000 per month. That is thrice the amount I used to pay earlier.”Hiren Nagda, Power loom owner
Despite reaching out to the central and state governments multiple times, power loom owners say, the governments have turned a deaf ear to their demands.
“The central government is responsible for this because in the last five years, we have gone to Delhi two to three times. We have met Smriti Irani madam many times but all that we only received assurances. There has been no action. The BJP government brought in many policies but that didn’t help us, the textile industry, in any way. On 12th, we met the Maharashtra textile minister. He also gave us assurances and we came back home. We have no choice but to shut down our industry,” said power loom owner Hanif Nathani.
Their demands from the government are very clear – have stable policies for starters.
“In the same state, there are different power tariffs. We want there to be a uniform power tariff. GST should not be complicated. It should be easy and smooth moving. That will be good for the industry and policies should be stable. It shouldn’t keep changing all the time.”Hiren Nagda, Power loom owner
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Topics: GST Bhiwandi 2019 Lok Sabha Elections
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