For the weavers

Published : Jun 23, 2001 00:00 IST

The Central government unveils a series of measures for Andhra Pradesh weavers, but will it bring about a real change in the lot of the distressed weavers?

THE Central government has finally proposed a series of measures to help the weavers of Andhra Pradesh who are in distress. Over 70 of them committed suicide after being driven to desperation by unemployment, mounting debts and starvation (Frontline, April 27, 2001).

But according to the weavers' organisations in the State, the proposals are not new but only a reiteration of the existing measures. They have been outlined in haste without a serious study of the complex problems facing weavers.

The latest proposals to help the weavers include making available inputs such as yarn at subsidised rates and financial assistance on easy terms, upgrading looms, enhancing skills, and assisting in marketing the products. Among the measures proposed are:

* Ensure regular supply of cone yarn to the powerloom sector routed through the National Textiles Corporation; and the supply of hank yarn at the mill-gate price (by means of a subsidy) to the handloom sector.

* Set up 21 powerloom service centres while upgrading and adding to the existing 44 processing centres in the country; a new one is proposed at Sircilla. There is also a proposal to set up Textile Parks in Andhra Pradesh.

* Market the products through government departments, including defence establishments and the Railways.

* Help upgrade skills and the looms in coordination with the National Centre for Textile Design, the National Institute of Fashion Technology, and the National Institute of Design and Development. It is proposed to help the Sircilla weavers to change the quality of products (from coarse to finer varieties), specifications (from a width of 36-38 inches to 54 inches that is in demand), design and products.

* Provide the weavers, under the workshed-cum-housing scheme, a loan (on easy terms) of Rs.83,000 to set up a four-loom workshed, and Rs.65,000 for a two-loom workshed.

The State government, with help from the Centre, has also proposed a number of schemes. These include:

* Providing loans of Rs.15,000 to Rs.30,000 to weavers to modernise their looms through the Powerloom Development Centre set up recently in Hyderabad.

* Working out with banks a financial assistance plan, with an outlay of Rs.55 crores, including Rs.12.34 crores for Karimnagar district alone. Weavers are also to be encouraged to apply for a loom modernisation loan under the Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme (now called the Credit Guarantee Fund Scheme), which provides loans up to Rs.25 lakhs without any collateral.

* Tying up with leading supermarkets and retail outlet chains to market the products of weavers.Setting up apparel parks in the State is another proposal.

* Reviving the group insurance scheme for weavers.Only 800 weavers have registered so far and the State and the Central governments have not been regular in their contributions.

* Reviving the spinning mill in Sircilla town that would ensure yarn supply to local weavers and also provide employment to over 2,000.

The State government has sought the support of banks to help weavers under the Deendayal Hathkargha Protsahan Yojana. Under the scheme, working capital is to be provided to weavers' societies by banks. The Centre is expected to contribute Rs.2,000 and the State government and the weaver Rs.1,000 each. The sum of Rs.4,000 for each weaver would be kept as seed money with the bank for working capital assistance (loan).

According to Andhra Pradesh Handlooms and Textiles Minister Padala Bhoomana, the State government, on the recommendation of the Cabinet sub-committee, is considering a reduction in the power tariff and the sales tax on yarn. It has appealed to the Centre to reduce the excise duty on cone yarn and to exempt powerloom machinery from the payment of import duty.

Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu is to set up a committee to monitor the working of the various schemes for weavers and to suggest changes whenever needed.

The Central and State governments were initially in a denial mode, quibbling over the number of weavers who had committed suicide and offering simplistic solutions to or explanations of the complex problems involved.

On April 20, after a delegation from the State met the Prime Minister, the Central government "agreed to grant Rs.30 crores for the rehabilitation of the Andhra Pradesh weavers" and proposed a package of measures, especially for Sircilla. According to Union Minister of State for Textiles and Handlooms Dhananjay Kumar, a Rs.50-crore package (with 50 per cent of the funds coming from the Centre and the rest from the State government) is planned to revive the handloom and powerloom sectors.

Says B. Uzramma of the Hyderabad-based Independent Handloom Research Group: "For a meaningful impact of the proposed measures, independent weavers' organisations working on the ground should be involved in planning and implementation of the proposals."

According to D. Ramakrishna of the Rashtriya Cheyneta Karmika Samakhya (the largest weavers' organisation outside the cooperative fold with 23,000 members in Andhra Pradesh), all the proposals of the government address only the symptoms and not the disease. The proposals have been announced without any serious study of the complex problems facing weavers.There is not even an understanding that the problems facing handloom weavers are different from those in the powerloom sector. Measures such as the release of the APCO dues and so on are meant to help only those in the cooperative fold, which is only 8 per cent of the weavers in Andhra Pradesh. The bulk of the weavers come under the master weavers.

Says Ramakrishna: "The best means of helping the handloom weavers is to ensure the strict implementation of the 11 items reserved for the sector." And to ensure the sustainability of handlooms and traditional powerlooms, particularly in the wake of globalisation, it is important to provide the weavers a safety net and not just relief or welfare measures.

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