KOCHI: As she threads the yarn through the loom, Liji — a weaver in Chendamangalam in Ernakulam district, Kerala — who has been doing this for 27 years, is finally feeling positive again. Support for the weavers who were hard hit by the floods poured in from within and outside the state, and even globally, and of the 25 looms at the Handloom Weavers Cooperative Society, only eight more need to be ready. The production process however, will take another three to six months to get going. “During this time, we won’t have an income,” said Liji.
North Paravur MLA V D Satheesan said, “We have approached the government regarding payment of an interim relief package to the weavers. The decision has to be taken by the Cabinet. We hope it will be done as soon as possible.” Liji, Bindu and many other women, who make up the major portion of the workforce in this sector, are pinning their hopes on the interim relief. “A proposal has been put before the government asking for `10,000 per person. It will go a great distance in helping us meet our financial requirements,” said Bindu.
Also, since the women spend most of their day at the loom, they have missed out on the relief kits distributed in North Paravur. “We arrive at the workplace at 9 am and remain here till 6 pm. So, when people came with aid materials, we missed it. But we want to get the loom up and running as soon as possible. This will help us complete the order for school uniforms placed by the state government,” said Liji.
That order alone will not be enough to bring the handloom sector in North Paravur and other places in Ernakulam back from the brink of extinction. According to T S Baby, secretary, Handloom Weavers Cooperative Society, much needs to be done to help the sector.“A lot of manpower and effort goes into weaving when using a traditional loom. So, when a loom goes under, it drags down a lot of people along with it. For example, the process of washing the yarn itself involves six people. So if production stops, six families will be driven to penury,” he said, while interacting with a group of designers and the UNDP officer at a meeting organised by the NGO, savetheloom.org.
Representatives of seven handloom societies, along with the ones from Cherai, took part in the meeting. “Various interventions are needed to help the sector. The most important one is attracting new blood into the industry,” said Baby. On youngsters shying away from the industry, Liji said, “We have to weave six metres daily and are paid `300. However, when we take into consideration the time spent in getting the loom ready for weaving, it is a pittance.”