On the remote, verdant hills of Baramullah district in north Kashmir lie a clump of hamlets. In one such village, atop a small hillock stays Mehmeet, a forty-two-year-old mother of three, along with her husband, Nasir, and children. A sturdy woman with rosy cheeks and sparkling grey eyes, Mehmeet putters around her house with great alacrity, sending her children to school, feeding the chickens in the hen house, baking bread, making pickles and jams, traveling to the market in the neighbouring village to get supplies, among other daily chores.
The motorboat chugged along steadily in the autumn twilight on the majestic Brahmaputra. Sailen, the eight-year-old son of my guide, tugged at my sleeve, ‘Look look,’ he pointed with his index finger excitedly. Across from us was a small boat. A man was squatting on it and pulling up a fishing net. My eyes widened as I saw the catch, hundreds of tiny silver fish thrashing about. I smiled at Sailen.
The textile and apparel industry is one of the earliest industries to have developed in India. Its inherent and unique strength is its incomparable employment potential owing to the presence of the entire value chain from fibre to apparel manufacturing within the country. It is the biggest employer after agriculture and provides direct employment to 4.5 crore people and another 6 crores in allied sectors. India needs to generate jobs that pay well, provide social protection to workers, support efficient production for export markets, and hold the potential for social transformation.