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Smriti Irani still at the helm of affairs… are we happy? 

by Deepak Mohindra

18-June-2019  |  4 mins read

AOI 16-30 June

So, the suspense of who will be the Textile Minister is over and the Ministry is among those few portfolios that retains its head – Smriti Irani!

Most industry watchers feel that this is good news for the industry as she has spent enough time with the Ministry to finally get a grip of things, and perhaps this time, she will be more forceful in supporting the industry with the right policies.

Of course, there are always counter-views, and many others believe that if she could not achieve anything much last time, why would this term be any different?

People who are not excited by Irani’s continuation as Minister of Textiles also argue that now since she has an additional responsibility of Child Welfare Ministry, her attention will be diverted and the focus more diluted.

The argument is simple… if she could not take strong and decisive action when only responsible for Textile Ministry, how will she be more forceful now that she has additional charges?

No doubt, there are some sneaking concerns, but continuity is also important. The question is… will the continuity add value or is it more like ‘I have sorted this Ministry, so I can spend time with the other!’

I have said this many times, and will repeat again, Smriti Irani has the fire to make change and when she became the Minister of Textiles, the whole industry was excited, as never before had the industry seen a really high-profile person being given this portfolio.

Sadly, the hopes were slowly dashed, as like many other predecessors before her, the focus remained on the handloom sector with Varanasi being a priority. As usual, the synergy that should have happened between the handloom sector and the mainstream industry was not explored… a missed opportunity!

No to deny that the apparel industry was ignored, although many deliberation meetings were conducted, and the rapport she has created with AEPC and other industry bodies is very good. But no concrete steps were taken to address pressing concerns that were and are affecting the competitiveness of the industry.

It is also worth mentioning that many of the suggestions made by industry bodies were redirected to the Commerce Ministry with the rider that the request or suggestion was not in the preview of the Textile Ministry. Hence the decision had to be made by the Commerce Ministry and Textile Ministry could only put in a word a of ‘request’.

Now that the Minister for Commerce has changed, so a new one means re-educating him on the basics of the industry, the importance of support and why the Textile Ministry is helpless with his backing!

The erstwhile Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu was often seen at textile industry events and conferences and his attitude towards the industry seemed to be very proactive. His thought process was very clear and logical. In fact, he was among the Ministers that most people really respected.

Why he could not retain his position in the Ministry is anyone’s guess, but Piyush Goyal is no less charismatic and we can only hope that he takes the industry and its concerns seriously.

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