Big boost for Agra’s shoe industry, if state government helps

November 9th, 2008 - 8:12 pm ICT by IANS  

!– Imagr –Agra, Nov 9 (IANS) Minister of state for Commerce Jairam Ramesh has announced a Rs.1.6-billion (Rs.160-crore) package to boost the local shoe industry, but for this the state government, led by a chief minister opposed to his Congress party, has to cooperate.Ramesh made the announcement Saturday when inaugurating an international fair on leather, footwear components and technology at the Kalakriti Grounds near the Taj Mahal.

The package comprises a Rs.600-million leather park, a Rs.200-million footwear design development centre, a Rs.100-million design studio, a testing laboratory and a permanent exhibition ground to be developed on investment of Rs.500-600 million, on the lines of the Pragati Maidan exhibition in New Delhi.

Local shoe manufacturers have been asked to look for land and secure an early release of suitable sites. But there’s a problem: the land for the projects has to be released by the state’s ruling party, which is the Congress’s opposition party.

Agra’s century-old shoe industry directly and indirectly supports at least 100,000 families, mostly from the dalit community that owes allegience to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati (BSP). Mayawati heads the BSP opposed to Ramesh’s Congress Party that heads the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the centre.

Against this backdrop, how far the latest measures announced by Ramesh go in weaning away the dalit vote bank remains to be seen. According to shoe industry sources, Mayawati won’t be in a hurry to release land for any of the projects announced.

But the industry believes once the schemes get going, exports could reach Rs.30 billion (Rs.3000 crore) from the present level of around Rs.8 billion (Rs.800 crore).

More than 200 national and international components and raw materials manufacturers have put up their stalls at the exhibition.

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