The gloomy state of Indian handlooms

The gloomy state of Indian handlooms
A few months ago, I had written about the need to revive India’s handloom industry struggling due to the invention of power looms.The reasons for power looms to be gaining so much of importance is not very difficult to understand. As the rate of production is at least four to five times higher as compared to handloom, thereby not only the cost reduces, but it can also match the rising demands of consumers.

It is not that our government has not done anything to revive the industry. There have been a lot of policies and benefits to encourage the handloom sector. But unfortunately, these benefits have not reached most of our weavers. And now, the story of our gloomy handloom industry got another jolt recently when the government proposed the Reservation of Article for Production Act, 1985, to include mechanically powered looms in the same category as handlooms. In laymen terms, many won’t understand the difference it will make to our handlooms, but if it implemented, then our traditional textiles will be hit hard. Handloom weavers, who are declining in numbers every year, are the architects of some breathtaking fabrics such as brocades, jamawar, ikat, chanderi, dhakai, maheshwari, jamdani, kota, doria, baluchari, paithainai and pachampali, among others. In the real sense, these textiles are the handloom sector’s biggest USP. These are original works of art on fabrics, which if done via mechanically powered looms won’t give the touch and feel of the real product. There are about four million weavers in India in the handloom industry and this amendment will surely affect them in a huge way. Along with weavers, the entire supply chain from the yarn industry to retail industry will also get affected in the process.

It is a hard-hitting truth that there is a shift from handloom to power loom today and with this amendment, the situation is set to become worse. Over the past few years, we have seen more and more designers from the Indian fashion industry travelling to remote areas where handloom weavers are based and working with them. There is a huge challenge involved in this process since there are not only quantity-related issues but also matching with the changing needs of the contemporary consumer. There is also a huge communication gap and monitoring the production is not easy as it takes a lot of time for handloom to complete one cycle of design. I have travelled to many weaving hubs of India and seen the dismal conditions in which the weavers live.

Hence, this amendment will further widen the gap between the wholesalers (who have lot of weavers working under them and can afford power looms) and the small weaver who works from his home and whose entire livelihood depends on the hand loom he has. With this article, I would also request all readers to support the handloom industry by opening the link mentioned below and signing the petition. https://www.change.org/en-IN/petitions/save-the-indian-handloom-industry...

(The writer is a Delhi-based fashion designer)

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