Nestled between two of Tamil Nadu’s larger cities – Coimbatore and Salem – the city of Tirupur also plays home to the dyeing industry that came into the limelight around the late 1980s, thanks to the move from white to colored innerwear.
As more and more people preferred colored innerwear, the hosiery industry started to rely heavily on dyeing with more players entering this fledgling business.
“We began at a time when people got bored of white innerwear. Our firm came up with reactive colors that used various chemicals to provide vibrant colors to innerwear. The dyeing was the final stage after the product came off the assembly line,” recalls S. Murugasamy, General Secretary of the Dyers Association of Tirupur and owner of a dyeing unit.
The technology used for reactive colors worked well and helped sustain and grow the business in the town. With exports growing, the trend caught on in the international markets too, he says.
The problems began following the courts ordering dyeing plants to curb pollution of the nearby ‘Noyyal’ river, failing which they were asked to shut down the units. “We faced a tough time and after hectic parleys internally, decided to bring in technology upgrades to treat waste water,” he says.
“We have the treatment plants in 18 places and after the success of that particular technology, we represented our industry to the state and central governments and we got funding for modernizing the plants”, says Murugasamy while reiterating that his association is at the forefront in ensuring that potable water wasn’t polluted.
He also says the governments, both at the state and central level, should accord special status to the weavers as much as they do for the farmers. “We welcome the loan-waiver decision for farmers and hope that government considers similar relief for weavers too, given that we are contributing to the country’s exports and are diligent tax payers.”
Asked about the present situation, Murugasamy said the business is trying to recuperate on its own but there still exists some challenges with quality skilled labor being the topmost among them.
“A couple of years ago, many employees moved out of our organizations due to the recession and have not returned. Workers who came in from districts like Tirunelveli, Sivakasi and Madurai have moved away, leaving the industry in doldrums,” he said.
Murugasamy also laid the blame on the social changes that resulted in a spurt of liquor shops in the city. “Alcohol consumption has gone up and so has the demand for more salary which the industry cannot afford. In addition, we lose quality work in the evening hours,” he concluded.