CHENNAI: Over 30,000 weavers of the famous Kancheepuram silk sarees have lost their livelihood due to the rains that lashed Kancheepuram and Chengalpattu districts recently.
Rainwater seeping into buildings have soaked the wooden looms and destroyed raw materials worth thousands of rupees, making work impossible for the weavers. According to sources, each weaver has suffered losses of around `40,000 (including income lost) owing to the rains and subsequent disruption of work.
V Sivaprakasham, a Kancheepuram resident, has equipment in his house and employs two weavers to make the sarees. "For the past month, we didn't do any work as there was rain and floods. Now, we are unable to continue the work. The wooden weaving equipment are soaked and raw materials like cotton, silk, and other threads are damp," said Sivaprakasham, who is also the district secretary of the Silk and Handloom Weavers Association (CITU).
Houses constructed by the societies, with the fund provided by the government, for its members in Thiruvallur, Kundrathur, Uthiramerur, and other areas are over three decades old and have started to leak during rains.
The weavers demand that they be provided with `5,000 a month for three months, ten kilograms of rice and groceries for each family. They also want the government to bear the cost of the raw materials damaged in rain.
"Though we will not have proper income, `5,000 and the groceries would help us survive the rainy season. Like how fishermen get a monthly allowance during fishing ban, we too should be be granted an allowance during the months of October, November, and December," said Sivaprakasham.
No increase in pay
According to sources, weavers get paid based on the number of sarees they make. Depending on the quality of the saree, the weavers attached to societies receive `8,000-15,000.
"Weavers who work for private owners, however, get `5,000-6,000 for any saree they make. It's like we get `200-300 a day. To produce one saree it would take one weaver a minimum 6-10 days," said Kamatchi, a weaver from Uthriamerur. She added that for the last one month no weaver had work. It should be noted that wages for those working for private owners have not changed for over a decade.
"There are 10,000 members spanned over 76 cooperative societies while over 30,000 weavers work for private owners," says S Venkadesan, district president of CITU. "The members of the cooperative societies are at least entitled to a pension. The weavers working for owners are paid less. Ever since the societies were politicised and people not related to weaving or handloom were placed in-charge, weavers joining the society reduced drastically," said S Palani. One of the weavers recalled how the DMK government promised a ten per cent increase in wages for the members of the society.
Even worse is the living conditions of handloom weavers. The handloom and cotton weavers make `400 a vesti, which takes 3-4 days to make, said Narasimhan, a member of the handloom community.
The weavers association has submitted a petition at the Kancheepuram Collectorate demanding compensation to re-start their work. A group of weaver, however, alleged that petitions seeking compensation submitted in the previous years fell into deaf years.
A senior official at the collectorate, however, said the demands of the weavers have been forwarded to the divisions concerned.
Weavers with society
Income: Rs 30,000 to Rs 45,000
Raw materials dampen: Rs 7000
Repair: Rs 2000
Investment: Rs 8,000
Weavers with private owners:
Income: Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000
Raw materials dampen: Rs 5000
Repair: Rs 2000
Handloom and allied activities:
Income: Rs 6000 to Rs 10,000
Raw materials: Rs 2,000
Repair: Rs 2000