Weavers’ welfare at risk due to neglect by Congress and BJP governments 

The handloom sector in India is facing a critical challenge as both the BJP central and Congress state governments seem to be neglecting its welfare, leading to detrimental consequences for weavers. The recent cancellation of long-standing welfare schemes by the Congress government has left weavers in uncertainty.

Under the leadership of KCR in Telangana, the handloom sector witnessed a resurgence, being identified as a top priority after agriculture. Various schemes were introduced to empower weavers and provide them with sustainable livelihoods. Initiatives like the Bathukamma Sarees injected significant orders into the sector, with annual orders amounting to Rs. 350 crores, along with substantial investments in government uniforms and subsidies for raw materials.

However, the situation took a downturn with the cancellation of crucial schemes by the Modi government. The increase in GST on handloom products, dissolution of governing boards, and defunct research institutes have crippled the sector. Moreover, the cancellation of insurance and welfare schemes for handloom workers, along with tightened marketing incentives, has added to the woes. The neglect of proposals for setting up handloom clusters and technology institutes reflects a lack of vision for the sector’s future.

In contrast, the proactive measures undertaken by the KCR government in Telangana have provided a lifeline to weavers. Schemes like the Telangana Weavers Thrift Fund Saving and Security Scheme, insurance facilities, and substantial subsidies on raw materials have ensured stability and security for weaver families. Additionally, initiatives like marketing support and orders from various welfare programs have sustained demand and income levels.

Despite these efforts, the handloom sector continues to face challenges, particularly due to the neglect and policy changes at the central level. The rising costs of raw materials coupled with reduced demand highlight the urgent need for concerted efforts to revive and sustain this traditional industry, which holds immense cultural and economic significance.

Schemes canceled by Modi government:

– Goods and Services Tax (GST) on handloom has been increased from 5 to 12 percent

– The All India Handloom Board was dissolved on July 27, 2020, leaving no decision-making body for the development and conservation of the handloom sector

– The All India Handicrafts Board was dissolved on August 7, 2020

– On August 11, 2020, eight textile research institutes across the country became defunct due to the dissolution of the All India Powerloom Board

– The hank yarn obligation order for the manufacture of hank yarn was repealed

– As the percentage of hank yarn was reduced from 40 to 15 percent, the availability of hank yarn in markets became questionable, endangering the survival of the handloom sector

– The Lombard health insurance scheme for handloom workers has been cancelled

– The Mahatma Gandhi Bunkar Bima Yojana meant for handloom workers and all house-cum-workshed schemes were cancelled in 2014

– Marketing incentives made the scheme tougher and defunct

– The proposals to establish the National Textile Research Institute,  Handloom Exports Promotion Council, and Handloom Technology Institute in Hyderabad didn’t materialize

– Although proposals were sent for setting up 66 block-level handloom clusters in the state, only 30 clusters were sanctioned, and funds have been released to only 24 clusters.

– The prices of yarn and other raw materials have increased tremendously due to the Centre’s neglect of the handloom sector, resulting in higher prices for handloom cloths and decreased demand.

Schemes implemented by KCR government:

– The Telangana Weavers Thrift Fund Saving and Security Scheme (TFSSS) has deposited an equal share of the money saved by the weavers in bank accounts

– An insurance facility of Rs. 5 lakh has been provided to farmers, following the pattern of Rythu Bima.

– A 40 percent subsidy on yarn, dyes, chemicals, and other raw materials has been implemented

– 25 paise interest scheme, marketing support and a cash credit support scheme have been introduced

– Orders for making Bathukamma sarees and uniforms required for students have been given to handloom weavers

– Ramzan tofa and Christmas gift orders were given to handloom weavers

– With these measures, the income of each weaver family earned not less than Rs. 15,000