In the last few decades, the weaving communities in India have grappled with dire circumstances. Nevertheless, the lockdown which began in March 2020 was a challenge they could not have anticipated and prepared for. The pandemic shook their world to the core and weavers found themselves fighting tooth and nail to keep their head above the water.
In truth, exhibitions are a huge opportunity for weavers to market their goods and these exhibits are organized keeping the festival season in mind. Weavers prepare for these showcases months in advance so they can make the best use of this opportunity. With everything shutting down, the market demand was at an all time low. Many weavers relied on festivals for the influx of orders but the second wave left the demand dry.
Handloom weavers may be the second biggest employment sector in Telangana but the whole sector lacks organization and in the face of the lockdown, weavers were forced to abandon their looms, be it handloom or it’s much faster alternative, the powerloom.
With no consumer or their own government willing to purchase their products, weavers were left staring at piles and piles of deadstock. Not only was the demand non existent but the raw materials they procured collected dust as well. In turn, prices of the raw materials shot up and transportation costs increased.
Weavers barely make Rs 100 even after a day’s labour. Hand-woven clothes require great time, skill and effort with the returns being very low. In addition, the low wages have a direct impact on their health. As their health crumples under the stress of struggling to stay afloat, they go to bed worrying about the next day’s labour.
The little procured by the government was not enough. Many weavers are unaware of schemes they could take advantage of and those weavers who did seek assistance through government schemes didn’t receive enough to make a difference. Knowledge about schemes is not enough to partake in them as weavers often struggle to pay the nominal fees.
It’s high time for the state government to not only hear the cries of this community but also to effectively respond to them. The lives of the weavers depend on the government’s assistance. Monetary assistance and relief are crucial to the recovery of the weaving communities. For starters, the leftover stock must be purchased by the government and handloom products must be exempted from GST to ease their anxieties. Furthermore, financial compensation must be given to the weavers so they can cope with the effects of the lockdown and a loan can additionally help them stand on their feet until they’re ready.
For the weaving families, these handwoven goods are not just a way to preserve the culture of the state but it’s a livelihood. It’s their source of income and their bridge to survival. Without this income, their mere survival is a struggle. In the face of a financial crisis and overloaded with stress, many weavers have taken their own lives during the lockdown. Stricken with grief and troubled with finances, their families are hanging by a thread and the state government has failed to provide them with any kind of relief.
For decades, the weavers of Telangana have assiduously done everything they can to preserve the culture of the state through their artistic creations. Whether the government will take action and provide them with the assistance they need to persevere through these difficult times is a question which remains to be answered.