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Udupi: Handlooms on way towards extinction as youth turn away from them

Harshini Brahmavar

Daijiworld Media Network - Udupi (SP)

Udupi, Aug 7: Indians have come to believe that saree happens to be the best attire that can bring out beauty, elegance and personality of a woman. Although there has been a hue and cry over Indian culture falling prey to western one, modern sarees have continued to stay in demand. Colourful handloom sarees are sought after by almost everyone. But tragically, this industry has come to a screeching halt at several centres in Karnataka. Currently, the people who are running this industry are aged and therefore in a few years, handloom saree might remain just a relic of the past glory. It is almost certain that soon handloom will remain only in books and other records as a symbol of Indian culture. A large number of families which were engaged in handloom industry have backed out of their businesses either because of shortage of information about government facilities or on account of dearth of income arising out of it.

Many of the families continued with handloom, as they were emotionally attached to the profession. The knowledge of weaving was passed on by their forefathers. Meanwhile, some joined the industry as it fed their family members, and are now in a dilemma as they are unable to repay the loans they had taken to procure equipment and material. On one side, our country is surging ahead, guided by 'Make in India' concept while on the other, handlooms which were once the pride of the country are precariously poised between survival and doom.

When we look deep into the reality, the truth we come face to face is stark. A few decades back, a colony in a town had about 70 houses wherehandlooms were installed and in operation. The area was aptly christened, 'Weavers Colony (Nekara Colony)'. This colony is located about three to four km away from the heart of the city at Doddanagudde. In a few years, the name of the colony might survive but four to five handlooms which are still existent might just cease to exist.

Vasudeva Shettigar (75) has been involved with this family industry since several decades. The income out of this work is grossly insufficient to run the family. Still, Shettigar deserves a pat on his back for assiduously continuing with this work. His wife Satyavati, also joins hands in this work. “Now-a-days getting people for physical work has become very difficult. Fixing yarn to the handloom unit needs at least five people. As this is no more a profitable proposition, continuing with this industry has become a challenge,” Vasudeva rues.

He is upset on the fact that the government which had provided his family with a house in the past, has not done anything for their welfare ever since. "Weaving of a saree requires a minimum of two to three days. The processed yarn brought from the society needs to be prepared for weaving, which requires lot of effort. A saree can fetch between Rs 150 and Rs 250. How can a family function with this income?” he questions. Currently, Vasudeva is manufacturing 60 sarees which are in demand. However, the future looks very bleak.

Seetharama Shetty is another person living in the same colony and depending on handloom to run his family. He is 66-years-old and has been doing this work for the last 35 years. His wife Saraswati assists him. He learnt this work when he was 17. Although he is educated, he adopted this job to earn a living because of his love for the family industry. He buys yarn from KHDC and prepares sarees. It is said that he is the only one to manufacture 80 sarees now. “Making a five and half metre saree takes about two days for which there is demand. However, manufacturing these sarees is a difficult proposition,” he explains.

Sadananda Kanchan, Managing Director of Weavers Cooperative Society, Udupi says that weaver’s society started to work in the town in 1938. He says that over 600 handlooms were functioning here then. In course of time, because of competition from other kinds of cloth and modern technology, weavers deserted this industry and migrated elsewhere. In 1979 too there were over 450 handlooms here. This number has come down now to just 18. “They had applied for ISI mark 15 years back and if this demand had been upheld then, skilful sarees would have been continued to be made in this region. But because this demand was not met, the weavers are moving towards abyss now,” he opines. “Sale of sarees made in power looms that are priced low have affected sale of handloom clothes. In handloom, a weaver gets only between Rs 200 to 400 per day, which is much less than what a coolie gets,” he points out.

Those working on handlooms currently are aged above 50 years and therefore in a few years from now, handlooms will be a thing of the past. Some years later, people get to see them only in show cases. In a programme sponsored by the state government, training to make sarees, bed sheets, towels etc by using handlooms was provided to about 100 people from naxal prone areas but all of them have slowly stopped working. Because of technical reasons, the government had not extended facilities then. Now production cannot pick up even though government facility is provided.

There is a chance for this industry if proper training is given to a new team of about 100 young men with house and other facilities. But major hurdle here is getting people who are ready to undergo this training. Although the government has come out with certain schemes, they have not been implemented sincerely. In the past, all the family members used to work as weavers but now most of the youngsters have bagged good jobs.

At present, although there is demand for hand-woven sarees, their production has been dwindling. After ISI mark came into being, there has been demand for sarees made in Mysuru, New Delhi and Kolkata. It is said that in the past, Deputy Commissioners, Chief Executive Officers etc used to visit these units and buy sarees. The weavers recollect that even Shalini Rajneesh had bought sarees from here. Mamata Bannerjee had procured white sarees made in this part of the state. If Karnataka government shows interest and introduces textiles park scheme under which ten cents land, house and shed are provided to interested families, handlooms can be saved. As the past scheme applies to only scheduled tribes, others are not coming forward to undertake this work. In the past, over 100 sarees, bed sheets etc were being made. Now only 60 sarees are being made. The society has been running under a loss of about two crore rupees since the last 20 years. If the government replenishes the losses suffered by these societies and implements new schemes properly, they can infuse life into this dying industry, it is being opined.

A Dharanesh, Assistant Director, District Handloom and Textiles Department, Udupi says that currently this district has four cooperative societies, one in the town, and others at Shivalli, Brahmavar, and Basrur. The department and Zilla Panchayat provide financial assistance to them every year. Preparations are being made to provide training for the freshers for a period of 100 days, he adds.

“The children of the weavers find it hard to get proper income from this job. They prefer to get higher education and do other jobs. The department is ready to extend encouragement to them if the people are ready to install power looms but people are not interested. As per the new textiles policy implemented in 2013, people who are interested in installing power looms, those who run readymade garment units etc get subsidy at different rates. If an experienced person comes forward to do weaving work, the department provides full information. The government also provides 75 percent subsidy if a person from scheduled caste shows interest in setting up this industry. It has also been encouraging people from other categories to set up these industries. However, the persons concerned need to be experienced, and old technologies will not get support. People interested in setting up new units can contact the department. The department forwards project reports along with recommendation to Bengaluru. Handlooms and textiles department is ready to provide all kinds of guidelines, but no one is showing genuine interest,” he says.

Handloom clothes command unforeseen demand now but production has been dwindling. Although the government is extending support for weavers using power looms, this is not being implementing affectively. If the next generation does not show interest, this industry will bite the dust. The government needs to encourage entrepreneurs who are found here, and provide training to new groups at a fast pace. Handloom industry represents the culture of our country. If the government simplifies and strengthens the scheme applicable to handlooms, there are chances of survival for this industry.


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Comment on this article

  • Jossey Saldanha, Mumbai

    Tue, Aug 7 2018

    Modi was right "Mera Desh Badal Raha Hai" ...

    DisAgree Agree [5] Reply Report Abuse

  • SMR, Karkala

    Tue, Aug 7 2018

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ejected Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi in the 2017 wall calendar iconic charkha pose and table diary published by the Khadi Gram Udyog calendar, diary.

    After agriculture, handloom sector provides jobs to around 6.5 million households which have been long ignored by every government.
    In PM Modi’s Varanasi, Benarasi sarees lose sheen after note ban.Handlooms fall silent in Varanasi, $1 trillion hidden economy stalled.
    According to Rashtra Cheneta Jana Samakhya (RCJS) findings, more than 1500 weavers have committed suicide in the last three years. Varanasi has seen 50 suicides in last two years. Mass migration of weavers, abolition of welfare schemes like health insurance, work shed, and thrift funds have also been exposed during the course of the research. Besides, huge non-compliance of minimum wages has been identified.
    The export of handloom products from India stood at US$ 360. 58 Mn in 2016-17. If encouraged perhaps no Indian need to sell 'Pakoda' for living.
    The image of the prime minister spinning the charkha seems totally out of place. This bizarre spin on the spinning wheel is one more tricky delivery in the playground of the nation’s political culture.

    The charkha in Gandhi's hands stands for a lot more than the act of spinning. Featuring Narendra Modi on the 2017 khadi calendar is a dangerous misappropriation.

    The reality is somewhat similar in contrast when it comes our own state of Karnataka. This is the truth of Handlooms from Varanasi to Udupi
    Jai Hind

    DisAgree [2] Agree [3] Reply Report Abuse

  • Evans Christopher Sumitra, Udupi/New York, USA.

    Tue, Aug 7 2018

    Handlooms are the best but times have changed. It is JEANS time as you see most of the youngsters and old wearing this.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [2] Reply Report Abuse

  • Richard, Shirva/Mumbai

    Tue, Aug 7 2018

    There is no Khadi Gramodhyog outlet in Udupi district. couple of years ago I am searching for Khadi shop to buy some Khadi clothes, I didn't get, later I purchased from Mangalore. Lack of Marketing ,Khadi and hand loom industry in the verge of end.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [7] Reply Report Abuse

  • Pramila Sequeira, Mangalore/Bangalore

    Tue, Aug 7 2018

    Can you please share the address and contact of this place, would like to visit them.

    DisAgree Agree [7] Reply Report Abuse

  • Lionel Dsouza, Mangalore

    Tue, Aug 7 2018


    DisAgree Agree [10] Reply Report Abuse

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Title : Udupi: Handlooms on way towards extinction as youth turn away from them


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