Textile traders from Surat are staring at a loss of around Rs 100 crore in the aftermath of Assam government’s ban (from March 1 to April 14) on sale of power loom-produced mekhela sador, gamosa, aronai and other traditionally hand-woven garments in the run up to Rongali Bihu. The traders, who were preparing for the upcoming festive season with ready stocks, fear loss of business due to the unprecedented ban.
Surat has nearly 65,000 textile shops across 170 textile markets that employ more than a lakh of people.
“If such a ban is strictly executed, the textile traders of Surat city will face a great loss in business. Currently, stocks of mekhela sadors worth around Rs 100 crore are ready in Surat godowns. Some are in transit on the way to Assam, while many are lying in the retail showrooms in Assam. If such goods are not sold, no payment will be made. The annual turnover from the sale of mekhela sadors is between Rs 600 crore and Rs 700 crore,” said Sawarmal Budiya, a senior member of SAKET Group and former president of the Federation of Surat Textile Traders Association (FOSTTA).
Meanwhile, state BJP president CR Paatil has assured to intervene in the matter after the Saket group, an NGO of textile traders from Surat, on March 5 made a representation to him against the Assam government’s move. “The traders have also assured that once the current stock of mekhela sadors is cleared, they would not manufacture it again. We will make representation to the Assam Chief minister and talk to the elected MP from Assam to give some time to the traders to clear this lot,” added Paatil.
However, Assam government spokesperson Pijush Hazarika said the state government’s priority is to protect local producers. “Our priority is that we need to protect the interests of our local producers and the women who work on handlooms. We will see the response of the Gujarat government. These powerloom operators produce mekhela sador and gamosa in a way that the quality and properties are compromised,” he stated.
Mekhela sador, traditionally made by handloom weavers from Assam, is retailed at a price of Rs 3,000-Rs 4,000. However, the power loom-made mekhela sadors by Surat textile merchants are cheaper and are sold at around Rs 500-Rs 600. “The Surat-made mekhela sadors are in high demand as they are cost-effective,” Agrawal said. There is a high demand for the attire ahead of the Bihu festival that starts from April 14.
In Surat, traders use polyester, cotton, nylon and kota yarns to make mekhela sadors on power looms, while traditional weavers from Assam use silk and khadi, said Budiya.