The crucial powerloom sector, which has sustained this city in north Maharashtra since 1935, is meeting the growing demand for its products from across India, especially with other major powerloom hubs continuing to face shortage of migrant labour
Ashok Kumar | Clarion India
MUMBAI — For a city that had borne a massive onslaught of Covid-19 in April and May, Malegaon is today booming with activity with powerloom units back in action and churning out fabrics that are in demand.
The city, located about 250 km north-east of Mumbai, was crippled following the onset of Covid-19, with scores of people succumbing daily. As the situation turned critical, the administration and the police with the help of local leaders managed to overcome the crisis over the following weeks.
“The powerloom units in the city are now functioning normally, operating in two, 12-hour shifts,” Sajid Ansari, president, Malegaon Powerloom Udyog Vikas Samiti, told Clarion India on Friday. “People are back at work and we are producing fabrics and meeting nationwide demand.” There are more than 2.5 lakh powerloom units in the city,
The powerloom sector was established in the city – where 80 per cent of the population comprise Muslims – way back in 1935 and it ranks number three after Surat (in Gujarat) and Bhiwandi (Maharashtra). But unlike the other centres, Malegaon does not rely on migrant labourers as most of the workers are from the city. “While the powerloom sector in other places depend on migrant workers, in Malegaon less than 10 per cent of the workers belong to other cities or states,” explains Ansari. “So when the Covid crisis was at its peak a few months ago, the workers stayed at home, unlike in Bhiwandi, where many returned to their villages in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.”
Today, the other powerloom hubs including Ichalkaranji in Maharashtra’s Kolhapur district (and where the first powerloom in India was established in 1904), have still not been able to revive operations following the Covid clampdown. And the units in Malegaon are ensuring that the demands are met. “In these troubling times, many consumers prefer powerloom fabrics as the costs are as low as Rs15 to Rs20 a metre,” adds Ansari. “The Malegaon units have finally got a break with huge demand from all over India.”
The powerloom sector is like a cottage industry in the city and people work out of their units close to their homes. Salim Ahmed, 62, a small-time entrepreneur, whose grandfather started the unit, told this correspondent that the employees are in good health and working normally. “The Covid-19 crisis is fully under control now especially in the city and we have no worries,” he says. “Hundreds of trucks come to Malegaon and transport our products all over the country.”
Malegaon is in Nashik district, which has of late seen a spike in new Covid-19 cases. Nearly a thousand new cases have emerged in Nashik city, more than 300 in Nashik rural and about 20 in Malegaon. The district has more than 40,000 Covid cases now. Doctors in Malegaon claim that new cases have cropped up in the city as some people ignore distancing norms and interact with visitors who come from other parts of the state.