LUDHIANA: Known as the Manchester of Punjab, this city famous for its hosiery products is one of the prime centres for knitwear production in India. Lakhs of people depend on the garments industry for their livelihood in Ludhiana, but in these elections surprisingly not a single party was talking about its concerns.

There are more than 10,000 small and large hosiery units in Ludhiana. The industry is suffering badly due to corona, lockdown, inflation and essential costs. Garment traders are unhappy. They say business has dropped by 50-70%. They accuse the government of ignoring the needs of the sector.

Ankur Mighlani, owner of Ashoka Synthetics in the city’s Sekhwal area, said sales had fallen by 70%. “Earlier a wholesaler whose sale was 10 lakhs now sells around 1.5 lakh. After covid it has ended.”

Mighlani has been in the hosiery business 15 years. His company manufactures t-shirts and fresh shirts. He says his customers, especially those in low income groups have also been impacted.

“The other big impact is ‘inflation’. A person who earns 10 to 15 thousand cannot purchase new clothes now. Cause due to inflation their whole salary is consumed in petrol or kitchen. Many small traders have been ended. The present situation is worse.”

Because Ankur is not alone in facing this crisis, Waris Nagpal shares a similar story. His family has been in the business around 35 years. He is owner of the Nagpal trading company in New Shivpuri.

He thinks GST is the key reason business has collapsed. “Apart from GST, now we pay income tax and other tax too. Prices are rising daily so it affects demand. Earlier the factory owner would call us and order our product but now we request him to purchase our product. After elections the government might increase GST from 5 to 12%.”

Waris adds, “If anyone starts a new business some state governments give relief from all taxes for 5 years, but not here. Like other states the government here should think about that, so new startups can benefit.”

In this election, Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi's remark on migrant workers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar triggered an uproar in the state.

I met a migrant worker Rampratap in New Shivpuri. He is from Gorakhpur, the constituency of Yogi Adityanath. He is a retailer of hosiery product on the streets of Ludhiana since 1997.

Rampratap says “Work is only middling after corona. People have no money so they are not purchasing our goods.”

As the majority of apparel manufacturing units in Ludhiana fall in the unorganized sector which relies on cash and credit, smaller players were impacted most by the lockdowns.

Rajiv Arora, a wholesaler of garment accessories in New Shivpuri, said “small business has been affected badly due to lockdown, small scale industry has been shut. Due to lockdown, there is no regularity in work so we lost our customers, demand was affected. Our savings too are over.”

“We are continuously facing a burden but the government has no concern about us. First we faced demonetisation, then GST, then the lockdown. 50 to 80% business has been affected, but no one cares.”

Rajiv was also angry on the media. “The media should be strong. If the media will not see our problem then nothing will be done. The media is creating a negative image.”

What is your demand from the newly elected government? “The government should provide us subsidy for revival of this business. And also should provide employment to people so that they have money in hand and spend it.”