TIRUPATI: Poor wages, job uncertainties and now the Covid19 pandemic have forced many power-loom and handloom weavers in the Chittoor district, especially in Yogi Mallavaram and Nagari region, to shift to daily-wage work and odd jobs to make ends meet.
A few years ago, Yogi Mallavaram – a tiny village in the district – was a beehive of business activity with hundreds of yarn suppliers and cloth traders from neighbouring states visiting the village. More than 100 families there used to work on power looms that employed over 300 persons on a regular basis.
The village saw a steady fall in the number of weavers in recent years. The Covid conditions and the resultant financial crisis added to the village’s problems. Power loom weavers are getting fewer jobs and a lesser pay for their survival. There is a lack of raw materials and fewer orders from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
As a result, only 10 to 15 active power looms are functional in the village now.
“When my grandfather started work at the age of 10, the handloom industry was blooming. It formed the means of our livelihood. The units’ decline started in the 1980s and yet my father was able to make ends meet with the few orders that came in. Now, we are struggling to survive in this industry and the Covid19 aggravated our problems. We are looking around for daily wage works to keep our hearths burning,” says Kumaran, a power loom weaver.
The weavers are pleading for financial support from the state government. A few officials visited the village and collected the details of these weavers months ago, but there was no further response.
Many men from these families are now taking up construction work or going to fields to work as farm labourers, or as shepherds. Some have gone to Chennai, Tirupati, Bengaluru for sustenance.
“They are now working as security guards and drivers. Even some women are going to these cities to work as domestic help and cook.
Meanwhile, only a handful of handloom weavers’ families were left in the villages surrounding Nagari region and they were fighting against all odds to remain in this industry. A few of them are lucky to get orders from some parts of Tamil Nadu, but Covid restrictions cast a shadow on their business.
The wholesalers from TN used to reach the village and distribute raw materials to the weavers and later collect the finished goods. The travel restrictions imposed due to the second wave of Covid however had an adverse impact. “We are now struggling for one square meal a day,” one of them said....