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The Southern India Mills’ Association

Committed to Foster the Growth of the Textile Industry

Chinese economy thrives while Uighur Muslims suffer, Indian Muslim weavers struggle

The Muslim weavers in India are for the last more than four years demanding from the Modi government to impose anti-dumping duty on Chinese clothes so as to keep a check on their prices. However, it turned out now that anti-dumping duty on Chinese clothes alone could not have served the interest of weavers in India. For, China has found a new way to bring down the costing of its clothes, that too, to such a level that it would be next to impossible to compete, at least for now.
The new reports that have emerged now suggested that hundreds of thousands of Uighur Muslims who were reported to have been kept in detention centers are forced to work in factories on no or extremely low wages. The clothes and other items thus manufactured in these factories are then exported to international markets on low prices. The documents detail plans for inmates, even those formally released from the camps, to take jobs at factories that work closely with the camps to continue to monitor and control them. The socks, suits, skirts and other goods made by these laborers would be sold in Chinese stores and could trickle into overseas markets, The New York Times said in a report published last week.
While the bulk of clothes and other textile goods manufactured in Xinjiang ends up in domestic and Central Asian markets, some makes its way to the United States and Europe. Badger Sportswear, a company based in North Carolina, last month received a container of polyester knitted T-shirts from Hetian Taida, a company in Xinjiang that was shown on a prime-time state television broadcast promoting the camps, the report added.
The Chinese authorities have rejected the report, saying it “a malicious attack that severely distorts the fact”. However, The New York Times said accounts from the region, satellite images and previously unreported official documents indicate that growing numbers of detainees are being sent to new factories, built inside or near the camps, where inmates have little choice but to accept jobs and follow orders. The result is that, while Uighur Muslims who are pushed into forced labour by local authorities and pay the price of China’s booming economy, in India, Muslim weavers who form a major chunk of the country’s textile industry are forced to sell off their powerlooms on throwaway prices because of cheap clothes dumped into the country’s market from across the border.
India has more than 2 million powerlooms. Out of them, around 2 lakh are modern machines, rest all are plain looms, according to the Textile Commissioner Office Mumbai. Data compiled by Malegaon Industries and Manufacturers Association (MIMA) shows more than 50% of these plain powerlooms are in Bhiwandi and Malegaon – two cities in Maharshtra which are dominated by Muslims whose only source of income is from the powerloom industries. However, since last about five years the textile industry in India is in recession and the worst hit because of the slow down are Muslim weavers. “The powerloom units in Malegaon are famous for their 24×7 working style. But, since June/July this year we are running our units only for 2-3 days in a week”, a weaver, in the business since last 30 years, said while talking to ummid.com.
Situation in Bhiwandi is even worse. In fact, it was for the first time in the history of the city that two weavers committed suicidebecause they were unable to re-pay the bank loan. “Many weavers have sold out their powerlooms and have switched to other business”, a local said.
But, the problem is that the whole economy of the two cities revolves around textiles and the slowdown in the industry impacts every trade and business. Hence, switiching to other trade is neither easy nor a solution. Local weavers say there are various issues that have resulted in the slowdown of the textile industry in India. However, availability of cheap Chinese clothes in the markets remain the major cause.
The government’s textile policy is also strange. It imposes anti-dumping duty on imported synthetic fibres but allows import of cheap Chinese totally unchecked. A demand by the industry to impose similar duty on Chinese clothes have so far been met with deaf ears”, weavers said.