HYDERABAD: Ever since the lockdown was imposed last year, there has been no livelihood for the weavers in Telangana. Though most of the designers from the city have come forward to help them, the stocks remain in the godowns and stores.
As the lockdown continues in the State for the second time, it is starting to show how businesses are shutting down, and one of them includes the handloom sector. We as a State give preference to handlooms but the artisans behind the intrinsic craft are slowly losing hope with lack of income. Looking at the tense situation, handloom weavers just hope that things get better soon and that their skills do not fade out with the ongoing pandemic.
To help these artisan weavers during these tough times, designers from the city are coming forward to help them get back to normal by conducting sales online. Sudha Mullapudi, the co-founder and CEO of Abhihara Social Enterprise, works for the benefit of artisan weavers. She has been focusing on Ikat sarees that have been the traditional outfit of our state. With the sarees stocking up by each passing day, this lady has left no stone unturned to make efforts to support the weavers by putting up an online sale of these cotton beautifully woven sarees.
“With the rise of the second wave in our city, there are no retail events conducted and boutiques and stores that would take up these stocks have stopped completely. It was difficult to bounce back from the last lockdown and this lockdown has comes as a sudden storm to these weavers. Last year, there was a different situation and the raw material prices kept on increasing. People expected that it would decrease, but cotton yarn kept on increasing but still weavers continued their work and entrepreneurs like us on the ground also continued to work.”
Summer is the peak season for cotton outfit sales, but the situation is different now. “Unfortunately Covid-19 has hit us badly at the most important time and thereby all the summer events and exhibitions have been cancelled. Unless the stock gets cleared and the weaver gets work regularly, they will be stressed. On one side, they need to eat nutritious food, for which they need the income. So, a social enterprise like us have decided that we will not cut the wages of the weavers. We are reducing our margins and working to support them by setting up an artisan support sale where we are encouraging craft lovers and handloom supporters to come forward and help the weavers earn their income because we do not want these weavers to leave their work as they are high skilled it takes years for them to master, especially Ikat.
We do not want the number of looms to come down, so we started this sale on Instagram and luckily, people are coming forward to buy them. Now, we are doing for Ikat and next week we plan to do it for Narayanpet as the situation is very grim there. I am getting distress calls from weavers and entrepreneurs from across Narayanpet, Gadwal and from Andhra, but this is not the time for silk so we want to focus on cotton. We hope that things get better as now we are forced to do hold online sales. Weavers are looking for work and not for donations as they are artisans and therefore we have started this initiative.”
“The customers are also coming forward to support this initiative and so they have no problem to wait for their product to get delivered early but they are willing to wait until the lockdown ends,” says Sudha. Hyderabad-based textile designer and entrepreneur Ramesh Ramandham whose wish is to sustain the ancient art of our state has also been doing his part to support the craftsmen of the state of Telangana through his organisation RS Karfts.
“The worst affected people during the lockdown are the handloom and handicrafts artisans. These are in the most unorganised sectors and the procurements that are done by the government are not sufficient as it was a partial one which was done an year ago. People who have paid for the government scheme got some money but even that wasn’t beneficial for them. Most of them are uneducated and not many people are aware of the schemes that are available by the government and even if they know they are not able to put that nominal amount and enrol for the scheme.Even if the goods are made there are no buyers and in spite of all these things the raw material prices have gone up and it has become all the more taxing for. A few people made masks out of the fabric but that did not last long. The government cannot buy these stocks in bulk, but there are organisations that are coming forward to sell these looms online. People have to realise that during this pandemic if they do not support these crafts they might disappear.”
Finding out the weavers perspective about the situation we got in touch with the weavers who strive hard to make money by weaving these yarns. Kodem Dhanunjaya who lives in Swamulavari Lingotam which is at Chotuppal village speaks about his distress with the ongoing situation of the weavers. With weaving being their livelihood he complains of the endless difficulties that have come upon them due to the lockdown.
“No matter which season it is we keep doing our best and weave sarees. But ever since the lockdown has started we are unable to sell our sarees to retailers people are not coming forward to buy them and they are all piling up with us. We no nothing to do for our living expect to weave sarees and now it looks like we will not be able to come in terms with our expenses. On behalf of all our weavers I request the government to think about the weavers who are working hard to help continue the handloom crafts of the state.”
Varakala Kavitha from Pochampally also stress about the same issue. “I have around 200 sarees piled up with me. There is no way we are able to sell them to the people as everything remains shut. We do not get any support from the government. Few organisations or entrepreneurs are trying to help us but if the customers do not take them it is of no use. It is getting difficult for us to come to terms with the lockdown.