The School of Livelihood & Rural Development (SLRD) has ramped up its activities with the acquisition of the largest apparel and garment manufacturing unit in Meghalaya. Located at Hatisil near Ampati in South West Garo Hills and covering an area of 150,000 sq. ft., the unit was set up at a cost of approximately Rs. 14.26 crore, by the Ministry of Textiles of the government of India under the North East Region Textiles Promotion Scheme (NERTPS), an umbrella scheme for the development of various segments of textiles, i.e. silk, handlooms, handicrafts and apparels and garments. It was hoped that that the centre would bring about economic development by creating employment for at least 1500 people of the region. The sprawling centre has three units, two of them housing 105 sewing machines each, and the third one having seventy machines. This would not only require skilled individuals to operate machinery but also people for various aspects of productions, packaging, and market linked activities.
The centre was inaugurated early in 2017 in the presence of The Union Textiles Minister Smt. Smriti Zubin Irani, former Chief Minister of Meghalaya Dr. Mukul Sangma, and Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Shri Kiren Rijiju. The project was an example of the convergence of efforts of Central and State Governments and was aimed at affecting economic growth in the area. However, the factory remained idle for a year and a half while the two different agencies that the unit was allocated to in that duration failed to meet their commitment to start production. SLRD recognised the potential of the manufacturing unit in achieving its own aims of rural development and actively worked on acquiring the factory where other bidders did not consider it feasible business venture leaving SLRD as the only applicant.
SLRD was finally awarded with the project in September 2018 due to its active participation, and experience in rural livelihood. Through this initiative, SLRD hopes to take Meghalaya to an industrialised category. The set-up of the factory comes at an ideal time with the presence of international market in neighbouring Bangladesh, as it offers a great opportunity in forging business partnerships with investors of Bangladesh.
Meanwhile, the unemployed semiskilled youth of the region serve as a ready workforce only with the requirement of advanced training to operate the state of the art machinery present at the unit. The activity can also potentially develop existing sectors such as like sericulture and weaving complementing them by creating a demand for woven fabric, particularly where the government and different agencies have spent years on training weavers. SLRD itself is active in the weaving sector with its weaving and handloom centres which currently engage 300 women providing them a sustainable livelihood option. The centres are equipped with facilities for Designing, Hank Dyeing, Warping, Jacquard Weaving, Fabric Finishing and Sewing which make it sustainable in long run.
Initially, SLRD will look at catering to local consumers and armed forces, and later venture out to national and international markets. Packaging and finishing of products will also be supported by SLRD adding to the number of locals employed. About 300 individuals will be absorbed immediately and the numbers are expected to grow to 2000 artisans by the time production goes to maximum capacity.
“Rural life in Meghalaya is full of opportunities untapped – some more than other. I was extremely delighted to see the SLRD team working in South West Garo Hills District. They have a plan, they have proven it to be successful in other areas of the country and they are pretty focussed on getting this right here as well. Ultimately, this shall increase the average per capital income of the family in a proud manner. Many women have actively taken part in various initiatives with a hope. I am sure the hope will be sustained by such efforts”, said Ramkumar.S, IAS Deputy Commissioner, South West Garo Hills District, Meghalaya showing support for SLRD.
The Apparel and Garment Making Centre was set up as part of a landmark initiative announced by the Honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi in Nagaland, on 1st December, 2014. The Prime Minister had announced that an Apparel and Garment Making Centre shall be constructed in all North Eastern states. Each Apparel and Garment Making Centre set up under the initiative is estimated to generate direct employment for 1,200 people.
“Most skill development initiatives have not resulted in sustained livelihoods due to absence of a market linked approach, monotonous products and uncompetitive pricing. The apparel Factory has the required infrastructure to initiate manufacturing activities for apparel and accessories which will link with our other interventions in weaving and embroidery. The entire activity was initiated to ensure sustained livelihoods on an industrial scale”, says Abhijit Sharma, Mission Director, SLRD.