KRISHNAGIRI: No clacking noise of looms in different variations is heard in the Zeebi area of Kelamangalam, 15 kilometers from Hosur here, because the manual weaving machines have gone silent.
“Every house in our place had one or two looms and these were running all the time for silk saree weaving.
Now they are quiet, because nobody here weaves anymore,” M. Sreenivasan said.
According to Sreenivasan (32), a person cannot earn enough money to meet his ends with handloom weaving. A few artisans, especially older people, have no other option except to continue working on the looms.
“Even unskilled workers earn more than what a weaver gets for one silk saree requiring three labour days for making it. What is the use in straining your eyes and back for a paltry income?” Sreenivasan said.
M. Gayathri (45), a graduate and a master weaver of Kelamangalam added, “Hand weaving has a unique technique based on locally available raw materials, capacity for innovation and skills practiced by people for many generations.”
The handloom segment being a rural industry, gives employment to local people. Every new powerloom introduced, throws five handlooms out of use and leads to large-scale migration due to unemployment in rural areas.
“The death of handlooms started after mechanized weaving was introduced in the trade. Three sarees are woven in a single day by one powerloom unit, against one saree produced by a handloom weaver working for three days,” Gayathri added.
Other issues are the depletion of locally available resources including natural dyes. Imitation products manufactured by powerloom by using synthetic raw materials and colours, have robbed the livelihood of handloom weavers.
“We can protect our units if the government strongly implements the Handloom Reservation Act. The Act was designed on the recommendations made by two different committees headed by Ashok Mehta and Sivaraman,” Gayathri said.
The ‘Ashok Mehta committee’ appointed by the Central government in 1964 wanted saree production to remain exclusively with handloom weavers. The second committee appointed a decade after the first, and named as the ‘Sivaraman committee’ was against powerlooms making goods meant for hand weaving.