National award but no income: Hit by lockdown, Kancheepuram silk weavers struggle for survival

The Covid-induced lockdown has been relaxed in Chennai, Chengalpet and Kancheepuram. The metropolis of silk has as soon as once more opened the doorways of its silk showrooms after 61 days of the extraordinary lockdown.

Meghna, her fiancé Nandan and her household, have flown down from Hyderabad to decide on sarees for the upcoming marriage ceremony in August. At the shop, Meghna rigorously selects one saree after one other.

The 25-year-old bride-to-be mentioned, “I want different patterns and vibrant colours in the Kanchi sarees. A lot of people told us that we would get pure Kanchi sarees here and that is why we have come all the way from Telangana.”

Each of the sarees that Meghna tried on have come from the handloom sector in Kancheepuram. “Most of the people work at their homes and take close to 10-15 days to make one saree. The wedding Murtha sarees may even take up to 30 days,” says SKPB Gopinath, Director of Varalakshmi Silks.

Gopinath’s household has been within the enterprise of promoting silk sarees for over 4 many years and is a model well-known throughout Tamil Nadu. The pandemic most definitely has wrecked this labour-intensive sector.

“Due to the pandemic, we didn’t have any customers and since customer floating was not there, we stopped our production. Where will we keep our finished product? That was a huge loss. Once the first wave ended, it took close to six months for us to get a breathing space. Once we resumed our business, again there was a lockdown. This industry has lost a lot of labourers. We have gone back by 30 years and we feel we are in the 1980s again,” laments Gopinath.

In Pilayarpallayam, 47-year-old B Padma has resumed her work alongside along with her husband, Balasubramanian.

National award, but no incomes

Padma was conferred with the National Award by the Ministry of Textile in 2015 for a Kancheepuram silk saree that she made. But now, 5 years down the road, the couple with two weaving machines, is struggling to make the ends meet.

The pandemic has left them with minimal work. They are depending on uncooked supplies like silk thread from Bengaluru, zari gold and silver threads from Surat and most significantly, orders from the cooperative society that they work with for weaving the sarees.

Padma says, “You can make a living out of this profession only if we do it on an everyday basis. But during the lockdown, we didn’t get raw materials from anywhere and we couldn’t work.”

“Earlier, we did five sarees a month, during the lockdown we couldn’t even do two sarees. Both my husband and I are in this profession and we have been facing a lot of difficulties in managing the family. Finally when we thought the lockdown was over and work resumed, within months the lockdown came again,” she additional added.

The couple have been in a position to resume work on June 28 after there was a leisure within the Covid restrictions. While Padma has been related to the Thiruvalluvar cooperative society for the final 20 years, Balasubramanian has been working for the identical cooperative for 10 years.

The couple’s earnings are what helps run the household. While they’re glad with the happiness that they really feel with every completed product, they don’t need their kids to enter this discipline as a result of lack of income regardless of the intensive arduous work.

The couple’s daughter is married and is working as a nurse whereas their son, who completed learning Mechanical Engineering, remains to be looking for a job.

Talking in regards to the struggle of the weaving neighborhood that works with cooperatives, Balasubramanian says, “The cooperative has given us Rs 2,000 as advance for this Covid lockdown. But that will be deducted from our salaries. If the government gives us some help, it will be great. If they can waive the loan for the handloom, it will benefit a lot of weavers.”

Covid and energy loom deal double blow

Meanwhile, just some streets away, Pallavan, who’s in his early 50s, is busy weaving a pink and inexperienced silk saree with a double wrap stitching sample. He works as a labourer for an unbiased handloom weaving mill.

For Pallavan and his household of 4, the lockdown was very robust. Every working day counts for labourers like Pallavan who receives a commission after ending every saree. For three sarees woven in a month, he will get paid Rs 10,000. The meagre quantity is what helped Pallavan guarantee his kids’s faculty schooling.

Pallavan says, “We have been majorly affected. We have not been able to repay the loan which we took last year. Earlier, in a month, we used to make three sarees, but even if we missed one day, it would affect us dearly. Now we are sitting at home for 4-5 months because of the lockdown and our families are badly affected.”

Apart from the pandemic, the handloom trade has additionally confronted competitors from the facility loom. The costs of sarees made in energy loom are less expensive compared to the expert handloom.

“One saree can be made in a day in a power loom whereas, with a handloom, it will take 15 days,” says Padma and Pallavan. “The finish and perfection that you see in handloom won’t be there in power loom.”

“Silk saree business has reduced to 70% of what the financial year before Covid had performed. Compared to the first wave, in March-April 2021, the industry has done only 35-40% business. Over 60% of the business has vanished,” says SKPB Gopinath, Director of Varalakshmi Silk.

Talking in regards to the lifetime of handloom employees and businessmen who’re depending on them, Gopinath additional provides, “Their livelihood and life have collapsed. The customer step in has been less. There is no proper support from the government also. The industry has been showing a declining trend. This is something that we have done for generations and we are now struggling to keep this together.”

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