New generation needs to take over from master weavers

April 18th, 2008 - 11:24 am ICT by admin  

By P.S. Anantharaman
Ahmedabad, April 18 (IANS) One of the major challenges the Indian handloom industry faces in the era of globalisation is the “reluctance” of the new generation to take the baton from ageing master weavers, according to an expert. D. Narasimha Reddy, a coordinator in the Centre for Handloom Information and Policy Advocacy (CHIP), a Chirala (Andhra Pradesh)-based NGO, told IANS in an interview: “Most master weavers have today reached their age and are ready to hand over the reins to the next generation.”

“Some have even started diverting their investments from handloom to other lucrative businesses such as real estate deals as it is more attractive,” added Reddy, who was in the city a few days ago.

He added that the new generation was “reluctant” to follow the family profession of weaving. Further, migration from rural areas and the changing consumer preferences also affect the sector adversely.

Reddy observed that production of handlooms was shifting from “homes” to “work sheds”. According to him, the decline in family income, change in the designs and products and migration of new labour have influenced this shift. The growth of work sheds in recent years has been phenomenal across India, he said.

Reddy added: “Unlike the agriculture sector where we see a new generation of farmers, the new generation of handloom entrepreneurs lacks skills and market understanding.”

Another challenge the handloom sector faces is the shortage in the supply of hank yarn. The availability of hank yarn is hamstrung by two factors. First, the production is controlled by spinning mills, which find it profitable to produce large volume of cone yearn. Second, since hank yarn is tax-free and subsidised, it finds its way to the power loom and mill sectors.

“As a result there is a perennial shortage of yarn. Despite a few schemes, the hank yarn access issue has not been resolved. Presently there is no system or mechanism to increase its availability,” he added.

Reddy said the remedy to the problem lies in “establishing relatively low-cost, decentralised spinning units in villages where handloom and fibre productions co-exist. The units will enable direct linkage between farmers and weavers and ensure supplies”.

However, he refused to agree with the argument that the emerging trends in global textile scenario following the 1995 Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC) would eventually spell the demise of the handloom industry.

According to him, there is still a high demand 5and for the products - which is likely to remain. But the handloom sector will have to reckon with the competition from other sectors as well as changing lifestyles. It should be ready to “change its products and broaden its consumer profile from particular segments to almost all segments”.

Reddy cautioned against conceding the demand from the non-handloom sectors for the removal of the Handloom Reservation Act and obligation to provide hank yarn to spinning mills.

The handloom sector has been a consistent source of textile exports and also resisted cheaper textile imports with its low cost products. “The sector has been catering fully to the domestic niche and cheap markets as well as value-added exports in the global markets.”

Therefore “the reservation is crucial to protest its markets”, Reddy stated.

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