Print edition : October 22, 2004

RANGAVVA, whose husband committed suicide in 2001 (Frontline, April 27, 2001) unable to repay a Rs.50,000 loan, is back to square one. Rangavva, who was a member of the beedi rolling society at the time of her husband's death, resigned from the society in order to get Rs.5,000 from the thrift fund service benefit. She got Rs.10,000 from the family welfare benefit scheme and Rs.15,000 as loan from the government. After her husband died she paid off Rs.30,000 of the loan her husband took and continued weaving to support her three children.

Rangavva, who supports her family by rolling beedies.-K. GAJENDRAN

Unable to get regular weaving work, Rangavva took up beedi-rolling work again through her friends in the village. Her son started going to a nearby beedi company to roll beedies at a salary of Rs.500 a month. While the family managed to avoid starvation it got caught in the debt trap when Rangavva's daughter got married last year. And, once again, she has accumulated a loan of Rs.50,000. Worse, Rangavva has two more daughters to be married off.

Now the family pays nearly Rs.1,000 as interest every month out of the total earnings of Rs.1,300. It has started to borrow even to eat regularly. Says Rangavva: "The welfare schemes will not solve our problems. We borrow to the maximum limit. After that source is exhausted, we begin to starve and eventually are forced to end our lives. This is inevitable."

Aleti Bhagyam, another widow, has paid off Rs.10,000 of her husband's Rs.35,000 loan amount. She survives by rolling beedies. Bhagyam, who has two school-going children, earns Rs.600 a month on an average. After paying a rent of Rs.300 for the single room she lives in, she hardly has enough money to buy 35 kg of rice given at Rs.3.50 a kg under the Antyodaya scheme. Her daughter, now in the 11th standard, studies well but may not be able to continue. She has to be married off next year. Says Bhagyam: "It is a nightmare to think of my daughter's marriage. I have to borrow heavily again. This is the poverty-debt cycle we can never dream of escaping."

Master weaver Chandramouli, who operated 20 looms until a couple of years ago, now works with only six looms. He now employs six weavers and weaves 60 saris a month and sells them at cost price (Rs.270). He operates the looms just to recover the loan amount given to the weavers.

Chandramouli refrains from producing more as there is no market for the mercerised cotton saris in the nearby town, where he sells them. Yarn prices have also increased by over 30 per cent in the last one year. Even after removal of the excise duty of 9.22 per cent on yarn in the latest Budget, the prices are high and keep increasing. That means the mills have not passed on to buyers the benefit they got. Chandramouli plans to switch to cheaper yarn varieties in the hope that the product will have a better market.

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