THIRUVANNAMALAI: The rattling sound of the looms can't be heard on the streets of Arni and its surroundings now. Hundreds of looms, busy with producing the popular Arni silk sarees, have gone silent ever since the lockdown to fight the COVID-19 pandemic was enforced.
Since the manufacturers and traders find no clients willing to take the consignments, the sarees have piled up for more than two months now leaving them in tears.
"The stock of silk sarees must be around 50,000 in Arni area. We don't find clients placing orders for purchase even after the lockdown was eased partially," says DH Gururaja Rao, president of Arni Silk Cloth Merchants Association.
Thousands of labourers involved in weaving, dyeing yarn, designing and other related works in the silk town have been rendered jobless due to the lockdown as 2000 looms have stopped running in Arni and surrounding places such as Sevoor, Mullipattu, Munukupattu, Sirumani, Devikapuram and Irumbedu in Tiruvannamalai district.
Arni silk sarees, both traditional and modern designs, would never fail to make it to the shelves of textile shops in all the major cities in Tamil Nadu and neigbouring states. Clients in Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata also purchase in bulk from Arni.
Even though the lockdown restrictions were partially eased, major textile shops in cities including Chennai can't resume business. This has left the silk saree manufacturers in agony and despair.
"When the stocks are not cleared, the sarees will begin to lose the sheen. As a consequence, the clients will bargain for lower price when the business resumes," rues a weaver.
Pending bills are also not being cleared by clients. So, the manufacturers are finding it difficult to repay loans availed from banks and non-banking financial institutions (NBFCs).
They have been clamouring for a financial package to bail out the manufacturers and traders. "We are expecting the Centre to provide financial support. The government should consider giving us back 10 per cent of the income tax we have paid over the last 10 years," demands Gururaja Rao.
He explains: "The government need not spend a lot. We want to get back a small portion of the income tax which we have paid so that it will free us from the debt trap."
Another trader noted that many of the manufacturers and traders in Arni have availed bank loans by pledging properties such as houses. Interest waiver is another demand the silk industry has put forth before the Centre. They say credit availability will not help them to shake off the debt trap but compound their financial liability.