I came across an interesting and welcome aspect of social change in my recent visits to different industrial clusters in Tamil Nadu: of young women from different states comfortably employed in industrial units in Tamil Nadu. In the Kannapiran Mills around 1400 women, forming a third of the total workforce, are from outside Tamil Nadu. In my visit to a large marine products unit in Thoothukudi I noticed a large complement of women employees, most of them from the north-east. Does this signify full employment of women in the state?
I posed this to Manikam Ramasami (MR), CMD of Loyal Textile Mills. He presented a different perspective: “married women desperately need jobs. In earlier days, women in rural areas were engaged in agriculture. 60-70 per cent of the work, right from planting and nurturing were done by women in agriculture and now much of this work has been mechanised. We will have to create employment for married women in rural areas, not full time of eight hours and more.”
Ramasami has researched the burden on the homemaker: “globally a woman spends 2-4 hours on her domestic chores. They also receive assistance from their spouses. In India, it’s different. A housewife spends 5-6 hours on domestic chores and mostly she doesn’t get much assistance from her spouse. In a survey, we found just around 15 per cent of women confirming that their husbands are helpful.
“Conscious that women cannot do tough physical jobs, we found that women can do work efficiently sitting, as they have been subjected to hard work at home standing and moving around all the while. We found tailoring will suit women well. We replaced all men working in the tailoring units with women.”
Provide work at home…
For good measure he added: “we set up central cutting and finishing units. We bundle the cut cloth and send these to small satellite units. Each employs 75-100 workers in a village. In this hub and spoke model, around 2000 are employed.”
Ramasami is all praise for the freebie schemes. “I reckon 2-4 hours of a woman’s work at home could be saved by such gadgets. The time gained can help them get employed in remunerative jobs. In this respect I commend TN chief minister’s scheme to reduce drudgery and improve the efficiency of the housewives.”
He said that Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s free mixie and grinder have been welcome measures that save time and energy for the housewife. The time saved can enable them to take up remunerative jobs. He suggests that in the next phase Amma should offer washing machines and refrigerators also free.
Exim policy hurts…
Ramasami is bitter over government’s exim policy for the textiles sector. “In spite of the tremendous contribution made, the sector has not extended the consideration it deserved,” he said. “Once 100 per cent of the spinning mills were located in the UK. Today with large number of spinning mills, we are the leaders. But in our tariff structure, we are hurting ourselves. We give zero duty preference to Bangladesh and other small countries that eat into our own exports. There is need to adjust our tariff structure with China and other countries that compete with us.”
Ramasami runs the seven decades old Loyal Textiles which has been winning awards continuously. These included a national gold medal. What is special about these is the recognition for its specialty fabrics, incorporating high technology developed by inhouse R&D. During 2013-14, the company registered an increase in turnover of Rs. 1247.39 crore and exports increased to Rs. 935.42 crore.