Shyam Sundar, a GenX weaver, decided to stick to the line of work that his ancestors engaged in, at a time when many his age from the community looked for greener pastures leaving their traditional occupation.
Adapting himself to the changed circumstances, he came out with new computer-aided designs and even produced products from organic cotton and natural dyes to meet the environment-conscious customers who were ready to pay a premium price for such products.
Much against odds, he stayed afloat producing colourful sarees during the first wave of the pandemic last year. Now the weaver, who heads Indira cooperative society, is clueless on continuing the work. With the virulent second wave ravaging the country, there are no takers for the products produced in the last six months.
Similar is the reality of weavers who toil at the house-cum-worksheds in and around Chirala. Silence reigns at this once-bustling town renowned for handloom products.
Usually, the demand that gradually increases from the harvest season peaks during the month of May coinciding with the marriage season. But now, many functions have been postponed to a later date.
“Earlier, many women used to throng our worksheds for various social occasions. Nowadays, there is hardly anyone to buy our products,” lamented weaver B.J. Narasimhan while showing the piled-up stocks.
It is high time the Union government comes out with an economic revival package to support the sector which provides employment to over 31.45 lakh households in the country, said National Federation of Handlooms and Handicrafts president M. Mohan Rao.
As an immediate step, the Centre should provide ₹18,000 for six months to each weaver in addition to supply of essential commodities through PDS outlets. Economic activity could be revived by earmarking ₹5,000 crore for distribution of free Dhoti and saree to 23 crore families below the poverty line in the country. Another ₹2,000 crore should be allotted for market intervention, he said.
With an allocation of ₹1,500 crore, loans taken by weavers should be waived off and soft loan of ₹one lakh arranged to each weaver to start production, he adds while pressing for reserving 450 million kg of hank yarn and 24,000 tonne of silk yarn for the weavers.