On 26 August 2007 a meeting held in weaver’s prone area of Lallapur in Varanasi in which weavers said that for polio immunization Government send health visitor from home to home but why Government is not interacting with every weaver to know about our worst condition? It is clear that, to eliminate polio is political desire, but there is no any political will for saving the life of weaver and protecting weaving and handicraft industry. The market of handloom product is declining and the cost of raw material and dearness is rising. Due to this power loom is spreading and galloping the handloom industry. The results of this anti handloom will is- “60 percent of handlooms are closed, high rates of cases of malnutrition, hunger, severe diseases, and death of more than 50 weavers due to hunger or by committing suicide.” Principal Secretary of UP Government sends letter to Commissioner to honorable Supreme Court letter no 3872 / 29.6.04 Dated 9 November, 2004.in which he mention that - “there is clear guideline for providing alternate means of livelihood for unemployed weavers” Commissioner of Supreme Court wrote on 19 October, 2007 under letter no. Hunger Death/ 227/UP “Weavers of Mubarakpur and Varanasi along with Nut, Kanjar, Mushar, Ghasia of eastern UP are severely suffering from Hunger and Malnutrition.” Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong and FIAN International of Germany released Hunger Alert and Urgent Appeal on the worst condition of weavers of Varanasi and Tanda (Ambedkar nagar). On 9thMay, 2007 in question hour of Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament Mr. Anwar Ali raises question, “that due to accute poverty women’s of weaver’s family are selling their blood and children for their bread.”
From the first page of Washington post to Reuter and BBC show the clear picture (story) of weavers of Varanasi. According to this more than 50 weavers died due to hunger or by committing suicide.
After the complaint of PVCHR Honorable Supreme Court takes initiation and give direction to State Government in its letter no 387/ 29-6-04 dated 9th November 2004 – “Now every district magistrate provided sufficient amount of fund for saving the life of children, women and men who is facing hunger and is suffering from starvation. They have very clear instruction that they have to check the cases of hunger and starvation at any cost without killing time.” Due to accute poverty the situation of weavers of Varanasi and Tanda of District Ambedkarnagar are very crucial many families are sleeping there with empty stomach and the local administration is doing hell there and no any help is providing. On 23 July, 2007 there was a round table conference in Lukhnow in which weavers protested against the ICICI Lombard for cheating and financial bugling in front of Honorable member of Planning Commission Dr. Sayeda Hameed she get angry on this matter and she called the peoples from ICICI and instruct them strictly on this issue.
On 23rd July 2007, there was a brain storming consultation on the issues of weavers, honorable member of planning commission Dr. Syeda Hameed chaired the consultation. In this consultation Assistant Development Commissioner Handlooms India Government, Dr. D. S. Gangwar, Mr. R. C. Jhamtani, Ms. Gulshannanda Chairperson of Craft council of India, Dr. Lenin, Convener of P.V.C.H.R., Ms. Arundhati Dhuru, Advisor to Food Commissioner of Supreme Court, Mr. Baddruddin, Leader, Weavers federation, Mr. Bijo Francis, South Asia Desk Officer, Asian Human Rights Commission Hong-Kong, Mr. Siddique Bhai, Convener of Bunkar-Dastkar Adhikar Manch, and many other delegates from weaving community and relevant government officers participated there in consultation. After the brain storming session, the declarations are under mentioned:
• Government has to declare emergency for weaving community in Varanasi and surrounding.
• Stop dealing the beneficiary schemes through private sector it should be implemented by government institutions.
• Government should open sell depot of silk and provide credits.
• All handloom weavers in crisis are needy of Antyodaya cards government should provide cards to them as soon as possible.
• Implementation of Handloom and power loom marks (symbol of produce) in reality.
• Special schemes for women weavers would go a long way in encouraging higher and better contribution from women weavers/entrepreneurs and female members of weaver families.
• Revision and revive of cluster scheme in context pro-weavers and artisans.
• Government should check the import of readymade saris.
• Government has to organize clothes/silk carnival for promoting handloom products and advertisement of the handloom products.
• Government finance institute should provide soft loans to weavers.
• NIFT and NIFD have to open their branches nearby weaver's majority area.
• Government should open ICDS Center as per the order of Supreme Court by priority to weavers.
• Government should allocate special budget for reviving weaving industry of handloom.
• Government should open new schools and health centers for the children of weaver's families.
• Implementation of recommendations of Sacchar committee.
• Registration of Varanasi weaving industry under Geographical indicator.
Planning commission joint advisor / VSE (village and small enterprises division) Mr. S.G Raoot wrote letter to development commissioner (Handloom), New Delhi “You are requested to kindly have it examined in your office, especially with reference to the observations of Member (SH) and direct suitable action to be taken in this matter, under intimation to the Planning Commission for information and perusal of Member (SH).”
Dr. Syeda Hameed on 2 June 2007 wrote in DO letter No. M (SH)/PC/247/07 in the reply of letter of PVCHR that she also came to know about deplorable state of Muslim weavers community in Varanasi. She asked the district administration have to assure for eliminating the cause of hunger and starvation.
People Vigilance committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) called famous economist of Sri Lanka Dr. Darin, after interacting and study with Weavers and Artisan “Varanasi Weavers Trust” project was given to Planning Commission of India and UP Government. According to the Secretary of Handloom clothes department from letter no 4CM / 63- V.U-2006 dated 18 march, 2006 that last reminder of “Varanasi Weavers Trust” was sent to commissioner of Varanasi. Very soon we will inform you about the progress and decision on this. Till today no information is provided.
Please raise the question on aforementioned issues in Parliament and Legislative Council in favor of weavers and be a part of the struggle of saving handloom and artisan culture.
1. What UP Government did on the implementation of “Varanasi Weavers Trust” project by Dr. Darin?
2. What scheme and project have been launch for immediate relief of weavers?
3. What step Government is taking for the advertisement of health scheme run for weavers?
4. What Government is doing for reviving the handloom industry?
We hope that voices of the weavers will echoes in the gallery of Parliament and Legislative Councils.
Siddique Hasan Dr. Lenin
Convener, 2007 Gwanjoo Human Rights Awardee
Bunkar Dastkar Adhikar Manch
Add: SA 4/2 A, Daulatpur, Varanasi-221002, UP, India
Mobile: +91-9935599333 email: email@example.com
Khaleej Times Online >> News
India’s silk sari-weavers face bleak future
4 July 2007
VARANASI - Shiwajatan Rajbhar spends his days weaving golden and silver flowers across exquisite silk saris on a rickety handloom in his mud hut.
Once completed, the handloom sari — traditionally a prized part of any Indian bride’s trousseau — will be sold for many times his monthly income.
The northern city of Varanasi is to handloom saris what Darjeeling is to tea. Yet despite producing some of the most coveted saris in the Indian subcontinent, the weavers — said to number between 200,000 and 500,000 -- have never been rich.
Now, with the market flooded with cheap machine-made saris, they are poorer than ever with some turning to farming and manual labor and others resorting to begging.
The weavers are typical of the millions of Indians left behind by market forces even as parts of the country’s metropolises enjoy increasing prosperity from a booming economy.
In the 1990s power looms became increasingly common, spitting out several saris in a day — the same time it takes someone like Rajbhar to weave only the first yard of a classic six-meter sari on his wooden handloom, thread by thread.
Machine-made Chinese imitations have in recent years flooded the market, often sold by dishonest dealers as the real thing.
Varanasi’s weavers say they cannot compete, and so thousands of looms have fallen silent.
“They started closing down slowly, one or two at a time,” remembers Munni Devi, who lives in Gaurakala village, once home to about 100 handlooms.
Now there are only two still running.
Many of the others have been trashed for firewood. The trenches dug in the floors of their homes to house the looms’ pedals now resemble shallow graves.
Before, the families once earned so much they could build sturdy two-story homes, grand by Indian village standards.
These days, the once proud artisans now slowly sell off ornaments for money and rent land to farm.
Waiting for help
Dr Lenin Raghuvanshi of local advocacy group PVCHR points out that almost all weavers are either low-caste Hindus or from India’s Muslim minority — communities that have often been marginalized — and are mostly illiterate.
His group wants the government to follow through on its proposal to introduce a handloom mark of authenticity so that the weavers have a fairer shot at selling their coveted saris in the market.
Until then, if they cannot earn from their handlooms, the weavers must resort to menial jobs, such as driving rickshaws, selling vegetables, laying roads or begging.
In the last few years, around 50 adults and children from weaving families have either starved to death, or killed themselves rather than endure their poverty, according to PVCHR.
Many lack the government ration card to which the poor are entitled, which would give them discounted or free food.
Tuberculosis is also common. The weaver parents of Iqbal Khan, 15, were typical: they went to their graves not knowing they were entitled to free life-saving drugs from the government.
Khan now has the disease that made him an orphan and sleeps most of the day, while his 8-year-old sister shoulders the extra burden of work on their handloom alongside two aunts.
Ramauti Rajbhar, like many weavers, talks about her poverty and hunger with weary good humor.
Likewise, the children playing between the mud huts look happy enough, even if malnutrition has turned their black hair tawny yellow and left their skin visibly dry.
Two defunct handlooms take up most of Rajbhar’s one-room home in Bhagwa Nala. She now works as a casual laborer on building sites. If she gets hired in the morning, she takes home 60 rupees ($1.50) in the evening.
She can afford to feed her children only a bowl or two of plain rice and some bread each day. Sometimes they get nothing.
“Tell me, with 100 rupees, what shall I do? Should I spend it on bread, or on medicines or on educating my children?” asked Rajbhar, saying her eldest daughter was about to become a full-time dishwasher.
“I have little hope for the future,” she added, her eyes bloodshot and hooded from fatigue.