Budget 2020

Budget: A boost for technical textiles

M Ramesh Chennai | Updated on February 03, 2020 Published on February 03, 2020

Nirmala Sitaraman has proposed the National Technical Textiles Mission, with an outlay of ₹1,480-crore, for a four-year period to cut down imports

What is common to tarpaulin, fishing net and sanitary napkin? Well, they all come under the head ‘technical textiles’, a fast-growing industry segment that is now in the news because Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman spoke about it in her Budget speech.

The announcement that the Finance Ministry has formally launched the next edition of the National Technical Textiles Mission by allocating ₹1,480 crore ($205 million) for a four-year period beginning this year, has not come a day sooner. The earlier National Technical Textiles Mission, which was launched for a period of five years (2010-11 to 2014-15), with an allocation of $1 million, was extended till March 2017.

Import-dependent

‘Technical textiles’ is a common name for 12 distinct product categories — the names reveal their applications. For example, ‘mobiltech’ refers to products in vehicles such as seat belts and airbags, airplane seats; ‘indutech’ for flame-resistant clothes used in the manufacturing industry; meditech are for diapers, napkins, sterlisation packs, bandages and sutures; agrotech products go into the manufacture of poly houses and nets; and geotech, which is incidentally the fastest growing sub-segment, used to hold back soil.

The market for this is dependent on imports, which was ₹1.16-lakh crore in 2017-18, is set to cross the ₹2-lakh crore this year. The market for these products grew 11 per cent between 2012 and 2017 and is estimated to be growing at 20 per cent annually now, according to Government of India’s press releases.

Despite 2,100 technical textile manufacturing units in the country, spread over Gujarat, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, India still depends on imports. As the Finance Minister noted in her speech, products worth $16 billion are imported into the country, when most of them can be manufactured locally.

Job creation

Every crore of rupees invested in technical textiles creates 70 jobs, as stated by Textiles Minister Smriti Irani in a seminar last year. Importantly, it can have an impact in the North-East, an area crying for development.

“The topography of the north-eastern region (NER) makes application of geo-technical textiles particularly suitable for the region in infrastructure projects relating to road construction, river bank erosion control and slope erosion control,” said a March 2015 Government of India press release. Geotextiles can be used here in road construction — it has been noted in this contest that the North-East has a road network of 81,960 km, which needs protection all the time. “Road infrastructure represents the most obvious area of opportunity for geotechnical textiles,” the release said.

Sufficient groundwork has been done for the National Technical Textiles Mission and it is the right time to focus on the second round of mission. For example, 92 application areas have been identified for mandatory use across ten central ministries and departments. The Bureau of Indian Standards has developed standards for 348 technical textile products; the Ministry of Textiles offers technical textiles courses under its skill development programme called Samarth.

Research initiative

The research institutions have been developing technologies for technical textiles. For example, Bhabha Atomic Reseach Centre has developed a liquid based on ‘phosphorous functionalised graphene quantum dot’ technology (pf-GOQ). You take a fabric and dip it into this liquid, the fabric acquires flame-retardant properties.

The space agency, ISRO, has developed a high silica cloth, which it calls ISROSIL, which can withstand temperatures up to 1,650 degrees Centigrade.

“With growing awareness and consumption of technical textiles, greater innovation in the field and demand from end-use industries, the country is a promising destination with an increasing demographic dividend and consumption scenario,” says the Government’s ‘Make in India’ website.

Published on February 03, 2020
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