A central package of Rs 3,000 crore to support the country’s handloom sector will be Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s move to woo weavers, an important political constituency in Uttar Pradesh that goes to polls early next year.
Gandhi has called for the immediate rollout of the package that was announced in this year’s budget but has not yet been implemented.
Gandhi — on a mission to revive his party’s fortunes in UP — has asked union commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma to speed up implementation of the scheme.
Sharma will launch an integrated skill development scheme for the carpet sector in Varanasi on Saturday.
Weavers — mostly backward Muslims — constitute 16% of voters in the Azamgarh, Mau, Jaunpur, Varanasi, Bhadoi and Ambedkarnagar districts of eastern UP. The large concentration of this community has always attracted political parties. While the Samajwadi Party has been trying to win them over, the Congress has now joined the race.
Rahul had visited Azamgarh and interacted with handloom weavers in July and spent time with artisans in Mirzapur district earlier this month.
“I was informed that credit is also not easily forthcoming for these weavers. I would, therefore, urge you to formulate an appropriate financial package for millions of bunkars (handloom weavers), most of who belong to the weaker community and to the minorities,” the Congress leader said in his letter.
He said the weavers have been under considerable economic distress due to indebtedness. Citing that weavers have been facing difficulties due to high prices of yarn and stiff competition from the powerloom and mill sectors, Rahul wrote: “I would strongly recommend measures to ensure availability of yarn at affordable prices, access to credit on easy terms and freight reimbursement to retain the competitiveness of this sector.”