Poor wages force workers desert handloom industry

The handloom industry, which was once a major source of revenue for many people in Kozhikode,

Published: 16th October 2013 08:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th October 2013 03:54 PM   |  A+A-

The handloom industry, which was once a major source of revenue for many people in Kozhikode, is facing a downturn, as low wage, coupled with lack of support from the government, is forcing handloom workers to shift to other professions. Till 1995, over 5 lakh people were working in this sector, which is on the wane now. The total number of handloom workers in the district is now less than one lakh. At present, in Kozhikode district, there are as many as 30 cooperative societies and all of them are struggling to survive. In one such cooperative society at Naduvannur, there were over 200 handloom weavers years ago, and but their number is less than 30 now. “Low wage is one of the key reasons why workers leave the sector and all other issues are secondary. For weaving a sari, it needs the labour of two people for two days and all they get is just `450 for one sari; each gets `225 for two days of work. How can one survive with a paltry `225,” says Anandan K T, secretary of Naduvanna Handloom Workers Cooperative Society. In yet another setback to handloom weavers, the `3,884 crore allotted by the Central Government to write off the debts of weaving societies has not reached them owing to the criteria put forward by Nabard. “After releasing the amount, the Central government entrusted Nabard with the task of distributing funds and the criteria fixed by Nabard for getting the fund was not favourable enough for societies to avail themselves of debt relief funds. As per the criteria, one cooperative society has to be in profit for three consecutive years for getting the funds. Going by the criteria, only 180 societies were eligible for funds in the state and the rest of the nearly 600 societies were rejected,” says A V Babu, secretary of State Handloom Cooperative Societies Association. He also says that what came as a hope tuned futile due to the criteria fixed by Nabard. “If a society runs in profit, what is the need of debt relief fund. We have given requests to the Chief Minister in this regard, but no action has been taken so far,” says Babu. District Industrial Officer Sudha Devi points fingers at the attitude of the new generation towards weaving and also refutes the view that low wage is the cause of leaving the profession. “Low wage is not at all an issue here. The newer generation is not interested in working in this sector and chooses other professions. There are many incentives and subsidies available for handloom weavers. One of these is a production incentive in which weavers get `600 as weekly incentive for work beyond a particular limit. Subsidies for thread are also available.” When asked about the Central Government’s debt relief fund, she says, “The decision has to be taken at the director level.”

 

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