A former chief official at the Indian Textiles Ministry has attacked government plans to prolong the life of loss-making state-owned textile mills.

TSR Subramanian, former secretary at the Ministry told just-style: "The Government should focus on making policies and not running mills."

He was speaking after India's new right-of-centre government confirmed it will continue to run at least six currently loss-making mills, run by the National Textile Corporation (NTC).

"Our government has no intention of selling these mills," Santosh Gangwar, India's Textiles Minister told the Indian parliament last week. "The textile industry has job opportunities and we want to take it forward in the right manner and form."

The NTC has 23 mills. Only five - joint ventures with private companies - make a profit. "In the next three months we want at least six more mills to become profitable," the Minster said. He did not say whether mills remaining unprofitable would be closed.

However, experts doubt if even these six mills can become profitable. Subramanian told just-style: "Those mills are composite units operating with old technology, which could not survive in today's conditions with huge competition from private sector that is doing very well."

In parliament, Gangwar defended the NTC, which employs 11,000 workers. It was formed in 1968 to manage nationalised loss-making units, acquiring 119 mills since then, subsequently closing 78, selling their land and other assets for US$1.1bn, most spent on modernising remaining mills and worker compensation.

Around $230m remains in the fund and the government plans to invest it in remaining mills. "We have already achieved 50% modernisation level," Gangwar said.