SRIKAKULAM: Although Ponduru khadi is rich in tradition besides being pricey, the living conditions of khadi workers have been worsening year after year. Ponduru khadi had proved its mark during the freedom movement and became the favourite handmade garment of Mahatma Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi was gifted a script of the hand-made Ponduru khadi by the freedom-fighters of the district. Similarly, Acharya Vinoba Bhave was gifted three-metre-long khadi dhoti by packing it in a matchbox during his visit. Gandhiji’s son Devang Gandhi and his granddaughter Tara Gandhi visited Ponduru in 1998 and 1999 to document the history of the Ponduru khadi.
Earlier, there were about 1,500 weavers involved in weaving khadi cloth; the number dwindled to 1,100 currently. Despite the whole family working on making khadi garments, the weavers aren’t able to earn Rs 200 a day. To cap it all, they live in dilapidated houses.
There are about 1,100 khadi weavers in Ponduru, G Sigadam and Rajam manals, who depend on making khadi garments, Khadi Society secretary B Venkata Ramana said. “We pay Rs 100 for spinning a hank, while for weaving we pay Rs 54 to Rs 190 per metre, depending upon variety of the cloth,” he added. “At present, we make sarees, dhotis, lungis, towels and shirts and the prices range from Rs 200 to Rs 1,585 a metre. Some khadi sarees cost up to Rs 11,000.
However, the annual turnover of khadi is not more than Rs 4 crore due to lack of proper marketing. There are about seven retail outlets in Srikakulam and Vizianagaram, besides three production units at Ponduru, Santakaviti and Kurumpeta. Out of the 1,100 workers, 1,030 are spinners, while other are weavers,” Ramana added.
The khadi workers’ children are engaged in daily wage works, cement brick works among others. If it continues for the next few years, the handmade khadi will be a thing of the past. Baswa Mohana Rao, 68, said he makes half-a-metre a day, which would not earn him even Rs 100. Mohana Rao said he prepared four sarees for former President Pratibha Patil. He said there were 100 handlooms at Ponduru previously, now the number has dropped to 40.
Nellore: Industries Minister Mekapati Goutham Reddy informed that they would organise a special grievance day once every two months to resolve the issues of handloom weavers.