The looms that were silent for a period of two months are slowly spinning back to life in the many clusters in the two States of Telangana and AP. Fear and uncertainty hover in Gadwal, Narayanpet, Siddipet, Pochampally and many other smaller villages that are home to countless artisans who eke out a living making handlooms and working in the power looms.
As the effect of the coronavirus pandemic threatens to spread its tentacles across all sectors of the economy, India’s handloom weavers face an uncertain future with raw materials and supply chains at a standstill. Weavers are facing a double conundrum — to return to work as usual or turn their sights to more lucrative work. Disposable incomes and spending powers took a big hit which means nothing is going to be the same. Demand patterns and utility value will shape how products are made now.
Satish Poludas of Sutra Durries, one of the many initiatives under KORA, a grass roots-based organisation involved in research and innovation in weaving across different States of the country says that AP weavers produced more fabric during the initial days of the lockdown.
“However, as transport shut down, cooperative societies had to close due to yarn shortage. During the two months, societies found it tough to sell even a metre of fabric. No demand from local markets meant the capital they invested didn’t return in sales so paying weavers became difficult,” explains Satish.
Entrepreneur Sudha Rani who runs Abhihaara and works in tandem with weavers is of the opinion that government should pick up the stock made by the weavers so that the capital can tide them over until the crisis is over. Clusters which are facing a severe dearth of raw materials should be identified and necessary action should be taken by the government.
“Weavers must also look at picking up new skills and think about developing a website which displays works of at least 10 weavers. Reorientation is necessary now. Interest-free micro loans to weavers and subsided loans to small entrepreneurs can help them continue with production and support the artisans they work with,” feels Sudha who herself raised Rs 1 lakh in two days after she received distress calls from weavers in Gadwal and Narayanpet.
Calling upon her network, she was able to get medicine kits arranged for those with medical issues like diabetes and BP through donations made by philanthropists in the city. At Sircilla, the power looms have come back to life and are currently racing against time to complete the government orders to make Bathukamma saris to be readied by October.
“Weavers at these looms are better off as there is a market guarantee for their product. But, for looms in other clusters such as Warangal and Nalgonda, it is also an opportunity to think and reshape capabilities and tell workers to produce utility value items. Import of cloth could also be reduced so that demand for locally sourced cloths goes up. Going the Swadeshi way would be the best option now,” says V Ashok Rao, assistant director, Handlooms and Textiles, Rajanna Sircilla.
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