Economy

50 debt-ridden weavers in Varanasi committed suicide since Modi became PM

Conditions of weavers community got worse during Modi regime, reveal experts’ findings

 
By Jitendra
Last Updated: Thursday 25 August 2016

After agriculture, handloom sector provides jobs to around 6.5 million households. Credit: Nevil Zaveri/ Flicker

A leading trade union of handloom weavers, Rashtra Cheneta Jana Samakhya (RCJS), has conducted research and found that the condition of weavers is getting worse year on year even after strong promise made by the Prime Minister. The federation demanded implementation of Handloom Act and support income of up to Rs 15,000 per month.

After agriculture, handloom sector provides jobs to around 6.5 million households which have been long ignored by every government.

Research areas

A team of RCJS visited handloom weavers at Uttar Pradesh (Varanasi), Telangana (Pochampally, Ghattuppal, Bahhanna Peta), Tamil Nadu (Arani), Kerala (Balaramapuram) and Karnataka (Ilkal).

This team constitutes M Mohan Rao, founder president of the RCJS, and Assan Ali Ahmed, member of the RCJS from Uttar Pradesh. The team was supported by local leaders in different states. The research mostly focussed on situation of handloom and government’s support mechanism to them.

Focus on Varanasi

The focus was given more on Varanasi as it has been the constituency of Narendra Modi since 2014.

According to RCJS findings, more than 1500 weavers have committed suicide in the last three years. Varanasi has seen 50 suicides in last two years. Mass migration of weavers, abolition of welfare schemes like health insurance, work shed, and thrift funds have also been exposed during the course of the research. Besides, huge non-compliance of minimum wages has been identified.

"We had lots of hope with our prime minister who can do some work for economic upliftment of weavers community. But we lost hope in last two years as his own constituency has seen 50 suicide in last two years," says M Mohan Rao to Down To Earth.

The report claims that government spending in Varanasi in 2015-16 was only 0.23 per cent of the total budget spent on professional services for handloom and rest of the budget was spent on salary to government officials and incurring other expenditures. This amounts to less than Rs 50,000 out of total expenditure of Rs 1.93 crore. The previous year’s expenditure on handloom services was 0.26 per cent, which amounted to Rs 46,000.

"It makes us hopeless to see how government is treating weavers who mostly comprise schedule caste, Muslims and other backward caste. It reflects political intention of government towards handloom weaver community," says Rao. "Since the new government came to power, earlier scheme of distribution of handloom accessories has been also abolished in Varanasi," he adds.

The report also highlights migration of thousands of weavers to Surat, an industrial town in Gujarat famous for power looms, in absence of any support system.

Demands

The federation demands for universal minimum income support of up to Rs 15,000 per month and insurance and provident fund services to weavers.

It also demands immediate subsidy up to 20 per cent on cotton hank yarn and silk zari. Protection of the objective of current Handloom Act and implementation of any scheme through co-operatives is another prominent demand. 

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