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Aspirational India and Advanced Textiles

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Seshadri Ramkumar, Professor, Texas Tech University, USA

India is now fifth largest economy worth US$2.9 trillion. On February 1, India’s Finance Minister, Mrs. Nirmala Sitharaman, presented Honorable Prime Minister Modi government’s budget in the Indian parliament for the 2020-21 fiscal year. The speech was longest since independence and lasted 2 hours and 41 minutes.

The budget focuses on five priority aspects: 1) Health care; 2) Respecting wealth creators; 3) Agriculture growth; 4) Happy living and 5) national defense.

The budget presented 16 points to enhance agriculture aimed at doubling farmers’ income by 2022. Textiles industry has something to cherish in the budget with the prioritization of technical textiles (advanced textiles) sector. A four-year national technical textiles mission is proposed with an outlay of Indian Rupees 1480 crores. As this sector is currently import intensive, this initiative will boost its growth and domestic development.

Government of India has been promoting this sector by creating awareness, which this scribe has collaborated by bringing international associations such as the USA-based Association of Nonwoven Fabrics Industry (INDA), Technical Association of Pulp and Paper Industry and American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC). In fact, in 2006, AATCC collaborated with this scribe in an international event on, “Advances in Fibrous Materials, Nonwoven and Technical Textiles,” in Coimbatore, with the first ever participation by INDA’s representative presenting global market statistics on nonwovens.

Another aspect that has received favorable response from textile mills is the abolition of antidumping duty on purified terephthalic acid (PTA) imports, an important input for polyester fibers. “This gesture is of help to the synthetic fibers industry as India imports it from Thailand and South Korea in addition to having domestic source,” stated Krishnasamy Pothiraj, consultant with Coimbatore-based Shubhalakshmi Polyesters, Ltd. “As approximately 0.85 Kg of PTA is required for 1 Kg of polyester fiber manufacturing, availability and competitive price will help the textile industry,” added Pothiraj. His company consumes daily about 700 tons of PTA for the manufacture of fibers and filaments.

“Emphasis on infrastructure with the building of over 100 airports, skill development programs and cold storage facilities in railways will support industrial growth,” stated Sridhar Narayanan, FICCI, Tamil Nadu State Convener, Education Sector. He added that the hosting of G-20 presidency in 2022 is a confidence booster. Supporting MSME and start-ups will enable in-house employment generation, which is the need of the hour. Start-ups such Chennai-based WellGro United (www.wellgrounited.com), need to utilize initiatives such as “Make in India,” and develop value-added textiles.

Textile sector should utilize the national mission on technical textiles proposed in the new budget to diversify, stated Shanmugam Velmurugan, general manager of Aruppukottai-based Jayalakshmi Textiles, a 72,000 spindle cotton mill. Availability of quality cotton all throughout the year at competitive price is critical for cotton spinners, added Velmurugan.

On a personal note, it is pleasing to report the continuing support for growing the advanced textiles sector with the national mission initiative proposed in the budget, as I have been in this journey since my initial awareness effort in India on research in advanced textiles way back in the Fall of 1999 in Coimbatore.

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