Mayawati’s ‘booster shot’ for Agra’s dying shoe industry

April 19th, 2008 - 11:40 am ICT by admin  

By Brij Khandelwal
Agra, April 19 (IANS) A booster dose at the right time - that is how the footwear industry in Agra describes Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati’s move to waive off all taxes on shoes up to Rs.300. For the past two years, shoemakers in Agra have been reeling under pressure from the rising cost of raw material, imposition of value added tax (VAT), lack of facilities and a wholesale market to buy raw material and sell their products.

Mayawati Tuesday responded positively to their demands. No taxes on shoes up to Rs.300, a new shoe park on 250 acres of land for manufacturers, and a new wholesale market were the sops the chief minister announced.

A substantial chunk of shoe production falls in the range of Rs.75 to Rs.300 for a pair.

“The sales tax department officials were harassing us whenever we went to the Hing ki Mandi market to sell our product,” said Raju, a shoemaker who runs a small unit in the Jagdishpura area.

Many like Raju hope they would be able to market their shoes without paying taxes. Most shoemaking units in Agra are small and are managed and run by families in tiny clusters spread over different parts of the city.

Rough estimates suggest over 200,000 people could be employed in this business, according to Abhinaya Prasad of Adhar, an NGO that runs training programmes to upgrade the skills of shoe industry workers.

Prasad says the decisions by the chief minister will definitely go a long way in rejuvenating and reinvigorating the industry that has for several years been struggling to survive, facing threats not only from big manufacturers in the country but also in China in this segment.

The leather park will provide a common facilities centre, training and upgrading skills centre, an exhibition hall, a central marketing authority, which will outsource supply orders for the small shoe manufacturers.

The Rs.100-million project is to come up in Kiroali tehsil.

Shoe manufacturers are more excited about the promise of the shoe wholesale market that is expected to come up at the Normal School compound, which will have around 500 shops.

It will be one of the biggest such markets of leather shoes in the country.

Buyers from all parts of India will get to see the quality of craftsmanship and place orders directly without a middleman, according industry sources.

Ranjeev Kochar, a shoe component supplier, says the “industry is bound to grow in leaps and bounds”.

Shoe component manufacturers are also upbeat about the resurgence of a dying industry, comprising more than 10,000 small shoemakers collectively producing more than 200,000 pairs a day.

Netra Pal Singh, an activist, says the new measures will positively counter the threat from China whose shoes had invaded Indian markets.

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