The flood waters of 2006 have long receded from Surat’s streets, but left its textile industry more damp than dry.
The calamity has put a question mark on the BJP’s election prospects as industry insiders feel the party has done little to bail them out .
“The state government did not give a single penny. Surat has seen floods before 2006 as well. Each time, the state government did surveys to find out details of the losses, but after that nothing was done,” said the president of the Federation of Gujarat Weavers’ Association, Ashok Jeerawala, who is a Congress member. The only succour came from Delhi in the form of Rs 77 crore.
The industry produces 3.5 crore metres of cloth each day. There are about 17-20 lakh people, either directly employed in textile manufacturing or employed in ancillary work like processing, dyeing and embroidery.
In the flood in August 2006, many showrooms on the ground floor and first floor and weaving units in the basements were damaged. Worse, the majority of factories were not insured against floods.
One estimate showed that around 400 dyeing and processing units and about 40,000 textile shops in Surat city as well as adjoining districts lost business of about Rs 100 crore every day during the floods.
“Keshubhai Patel, when he was the chief minister, had waived 30 per cent of the electricity bills incurred by the industry. Narendra Modi did away with that about two years ago. Power supply is erratic. The industry is also going through a rough patch because there seems to be more supply and demand,” said Jeerawala.
But textile trader Sajjan Maharshi defended Modi for scrapping the power waiver. He said many factory owners were misusing it. “They earn well but are reluctant to give the government its due. The power usage has been streamlined after that. There are designated days for power cuts,” Maharshi said.
Jeerawala and Maharshi, however, agreed that the Congress and BJP were neck-and-neck here, with the BJP enjoying a slender advantage among traders and the Congress being favoured by weavers. The Congress may strengthen its position after the Prime Minister’s rally later on Friday.