A story of the struggle for survival
By Nidheesh J Villatt | ENS | Published: 22nd October 2013 09:48 AM |
The signboards indicating the historic sites are certain to catch one’s attention while driving through the old town and outskirts of Paravur, many of which are included in the Muziris project. The latter also tells a tale of the declining indigenous handloom industry, the landmark of Paravur some years ago. The decline of the handloom industry is synonymous with the growing hegemony of trade liberalisation which destroyed several indigenous industries.
“A large number of people in Paravur depended on handloom apart from toddy tapping and coir for their livelihood. These traditional sectors ensured minimum dignity and basic income for the people. Now, all these sectors are witnessing a slow death. Plantains have replaced coconut trees, and coir industries are disappearing. The worst hit sector must be handloom,” pointed P A Sojan, general secretary, Chendamangalam Handloom Weavers Cooperative Society, Paravur.
“Kerala has handloom sectors in Thiruvananthapuram, Kannur and Chendamangalam. Our region is unique because of the indigenous production technology used. The uniqueness is internationally recognised with it coming under Geographical Indications Registration (GIR), a recognition of intellectual property rights. But the rising production cost, withdrawal of government subsidies and new trade policies have ruined the industry,” Sojan said.
A visit to the handloom factories will testify the intensity of the crisis.
The average age of the working population is remarkably high indicating that youth are not interested in joining the ranks of the handloom working class. A considerable number of labourers are women and the few male workers are aged.
“The uniqueness of the Chendamangalam handloom lies in the laborious production process. The workers should be highly skilled and attention to minute details in the work is must for a fine product. But unfortunately, the wages are extremely low. The average daily earning of a worker is `150,” said Kumaran, 74, a veteran weaver, who also participated in the historic Paliyam struggle in his childhood.
“Even MGNREGS workers and saleswomen are earning more wage than us. Many times I have thought of quitting the job. But weaving is the only work I know. More than that it gives me immense pleasure to see the finished product,” said Sreedevi, a woman worker.
A group of women workers points that the quality of the finished handloom in Paravur area is extremely high. “Even after several washes the product will look as good as new, retaining its quality,” they said.
Most cooperative societies that run factories are in deep debt. It is said that because of the indifferent attitude of the governments, they are struggling to survive. “Most of the cooperative societies are paying a huge amount of money as interest. If the government acts sensitively, the landscape of Paravur can be changed. The important thing is to attract youth to the legendary industry by providing a dignified income,” Kumaran said