Dharmavaram town in Anantapur district is world famous for its handloom sarees. The town now wears a deserted look due to the subsequent lockdown after the outbreak of COVID-19. Drought-like conditions have prevailed in the district owing to the dependency of over half the population on weaving. In the last two months, many handlooms have shut due to falling orders.
In the last decade, the profession faced a slow death due to the huge gap between production cost and market price. Small time operators who appoint 2-3 weavers faced severe loss as they received only 1/3rd of the production cost. Power loom owners and weavers who own more than one handloom are cutting into the profits of the small weavers leaving them in distress because of which, many weavers had to quit the profession and migrated to neighbouring states to work as agricultural labourers. Ground reports indicate that due to financial distress a few of them even committed suicide.
The handloom industry which is running on its last legs faced a deathblow due to the ongoing lockdown. The effects of lockdown might continue for the next few months, as sourcing the raw materials such as zari and silk from the neighbouring state Karnataka has stopped. With the wedding season coming to an end, the weavers don’t have much work in the next two months.
YSR Netanna Nestham, launched by Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy to provide an annual incentive of Rs. 24,000 to weaver families in the State does not benefit the poor and destitute weavers as the rule restricts only one beneficiary from each loom will receive the benefits. This rule is an exclusionary tactic leading to exclusion of multiple weavers working on a single loom and labourers who are in large numbers in the state from the beneficiary lists. Given the current crisis, the Government should relax this flawed eligibility criteria to deliver urgent financial assistance and provide raw materials at subsidized rates in order to support the weaver community.