Days after Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi sought concessions for the debt-ridden weavers, Union textile and commerce minister Anand Sharma on Saturday announced a Rs 6,234-crore package for 14 lakh weavers.
Significantly, Sharma announced the sop in Varanasi, a textile hub of poll bound Uttar Pradesh, which, he said, has three lakh weavers.
Irked over the party’s overtures towards the mainly minority community voters, the Mayawati government, however, failed to meet the protocol requirements during the Union minister’s visit.
When the minister landed at the Babatpur airport, there was only one police jeep to escort him. Sharma then went to the weavers’ centre at Kotwah, where only two sub-inspectors were deputed to manage the crowd.
Such was the indifferent attitude of the district administration that no provision was made for road clearance for Sharma’s vehicle on the busy road in front of the Cantonment railway station. Twice his car got stuck in traffic jam.
“It’s not just a question of protocol. Not even basic courtesies, such as ensuring that a senior government official is present to receive a Union cabinet minister, were extended,” said a source close to the minister.
Sharma also announced a separate package of Rs 100 crore for setting up mega handloom carpet cluster in Mirzapur and Bhadohi.
Earlier, during his visit to east UP, weavers had apprised Gandhi with their problems. After that, Gandhi had raised the issue with the prime minister and the finance minister. “He had also discussed their problems with me,” said Sharma.
The package, to be implemented from January 2012, includes Rs 3,884 crore debt waiver and Rs 2,350 crore for a six-fold strategy to uplift weavers during the 12th Plan. An individual weaver will get benefit up to Rs 50,000, Sharma said. The scheme will help 15,000 weavers' cooperative societies, besides individual weavers.
The package also includes Rs 500-crore loan waiver for those who are not associated with any cooperative society and have taken loan from banks on their own.