UP poll vault: Rahul seeks Rs 3,000 crore sop for weavers

Rahul GandhiNEW DELHI: Ahead of the Uttar Pradesh polls, the government is set to announce a package for handloom sector in a bid to boost credit availability, subsidize freight and yarn prices following a prod from Rahul Gandhi.

An indication could come as early as Saturday when textiles minister Anand Sharma visits Varanasi. Sharma met Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday. The package for the handloom sector follows a letter from Rahul on November 14 where he had said that the Rs 3,000-crore package announced in last budget has not been implemented.

Citing financial stress, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had proposed a Rs 3,000 crore loan relief scheme for 15,000 weaver cooperative societies that was estimated to have helped around 3 lakh handloom weavers. Rahul has said that it is “imperative to ensure that the loan waiver package is implemented at the earliest”.

After his visits to the Azamgarh and Varanasi-Mirzapur-Bhadohi belt in eastern Uttar Pradesh in July and October, where Rahul spent time with weavers, he gathered that high yarn prices are putting pressure on the handloom sector, which is already facing troubles from powerloom units and textiles mills.

“Listening to the bunker (weavers) community in the villages, on both occasions, I was informed that credit is also not easily forthcoming to these villagers,” Rahul said while seeking “an appropriate financial package” for the community. Not surprisingly, officials said that all three elements of the package proposed by Rahul was under consideration as the Congress tries to establish its hold over the most populous state. – TOI