MANJIRI N. KAMAT*
The War Years and the Sholapur Cotton Textile Industry
The war years were a difficult period for the Sholapur cotton textile industry owing to the prevalence of plague, shortage of labour and bouts of scarcity in the region. This paper argues that despite such unfavourable conditions, the millowners devised various strategies to make reasonable profits during the war. The rising prices and shortage of essential commodities following the war led to a general strike in the Sholapur mills which was entirely a workers' initiative. The paper discusses how the post-war strikes were ruthlessly suppressed by the millowners with the backing of the district administration.
PLAGUE, SCARCITY AND LABOUR SHORTAGE Sholapur was affected by a series of epidemics during the war years. The Collector, A.H.A. Simcox, reported that shortage of labour and the plague were the two most serious problems confronting the local mill industry.1 However, in 1917 all the Sholapur mills together had a paid-up capital of Rs 65,84,050 with a total of 2,35,278 spindles and 3,752 looms. The amount of cotton consumed was 30,915 bales.2 The city's population had doubled since 1911 to reach a figure of 119,581 by 1921%3 This section argues that despite the unfavourable conditions of plague and labour shortage, the millowners of Sholapur devised strategies to make reasonable profits during the war years.
Following the outbreak of plague in 1916 there was a considerable exodus from the district. The resultant dislocation of the labour market seriously affected the production of the mills. Due to the war there had been a decrease in imports of yarn and foreign piece-goods. In this situation the Laxmi Mill was able to take advantage of the demand for coloured goods as it had stocks of dyes purchased at pre-war
* Research Fellow, Sheffield Hallam University, England.
Social Scientist, Vol. 28, Nos. 11-12 Nov. - Dec. 1998