BENGALURU: No weddings, no silk supply and no demand for sarees. Worries loom large for handloom weavers, who are left wondering what the future holds for them
Life before COVID saw weavers toiling away for 12 hours a day, with earnings based on the number of sarees they weave and the complexity of each. A saree that took two-three days to make would fetch a weaver Rs 500–1,000 on an average. According to Raghavendra, a weaver in Guruppanapalya, only 30 per cent of weavers managed to live within their means. “Seventy per cent live on loans despite making a living.”
Relying solely on his income, Vasu and his wife both became breadwinners to fund their sons’ education. Their older son (28) completed M.Com and now works in a bank, whereas the younger one (24) is a B.Com graduate with a job in a factory. “This was possible because we earned a stable income,” says Vasu, who resides in Yelahanka Old Town. With no work now, most weavers have nowhere to go. And not everyone is fortunate enough as Vasu to be supported by their children.
Spools of worries
Looms are running again, but livelihoods of weavers still hangs by a thread. This season, which usually sees orders for upcoming festivals, has seen no demand and shops in Cubbonpet and Avenue Road have no business. The situation is dire for many, who have no insurance or pension schemes. Take, for instance, Raghavendra. The 33-year-old could not study beyond Class 10. “I took up weaving because I didn’t know anything else,” he says.
Today, looms are being used to dry clothes. Many weavers have gone back home, hoping to return soon. Devaraj, 53, says no one is giving them silk. “The ration depot is giving us groceries but there’s no income. How do I fund the education of my 19-year-old?” When the lockdown was announced, weavers were told to complete current orders before they shut. The state announced a relief of Rs 2,000 per year per weaver but they say it hasn’t reached them.