Recommendations For The Handloom Industry

Statement from Ashoke Chatterjee, Former Executive Director, National Institute of Design

Research Findings by Nesar Ahmed

Varanasi Weavers - Support and Regeneration

- Uma Prajapati,

- Rahul Kodkani, Udai

- SOS Children's Village
Ashoke Chatterjee's Briefings:
  • November 2005

  • February 2006

  • April 2007

  • At Craft Revival Trust

    Uma Prajapati
    Upasana Design Studio, Auroshilpam, Auroville
    3rd April, 2007

    “We got one report from Nawada near Varanasi and realised how bad the situation was.

    Thousand of weaver have not had jobs for months all together.

    I am sending in one report on Nawada .

    Upasana is taking its Varanasi project to the second level to enhance the situation in the favour of weaver. We are inviting fashion and textile designers to come together for the same cause and start using Varanasi textiles. Many designers are contributing their time for the same purpose in communication, graphic and web related work. Please get in touch with us if you need any more info.

    DISCOVERY OF NEVADA Report on a visit to the village, 25th March, 2007

    "I am so old, I might get some alms out of pity. My son and grandson will not even get that."

    "I cannot take a loan of ten rupees from you; I do not have the capacity to return it to you."

    "There are days when we wait for some work so that we could eat."

    "Each loom with its attachments cost us Rs.5000/- . We took loan from the Mahajan. There was no electricity and there was the slump .The looms had to be sold to the kabaadiwala at scrap prices."

    “Nobody has visited our village to attend to our situation."

    “Please do something for us ..."

    These were the words of the weavers of Gaura Nevada village, just 6kms from the Benares city border near Choubeypur police station. Shyamsunderji, the zari maker in Benares had arranged for our visit to the village. He had sent word to the village Pradhan through the vegetable seller. We were welcomed at the vegetable seller’s home. The inside of the house was bare with dung flooring but clean. His daughter had heaped flowers to make garlands .He took out the charpoy and spread a bed sheet on it, probably the only one in the house. We were served water and sugar.

    A young boy of 18, Bechulal came to meet us. He knew weaving but had left the occupation as there was no work. He had studied till high school. We asked if there were other boys who passed higher grades. He mentioned that one guy had studied till "16th standard” and gone mad. When asked about the number of looms working, he curtly replied in his mother tongue Bhojpuri that most of the looms have been taken out as there was no work. Weavers have moved onto power loom or other labour work out of compulsion. If they get enough work in weaving, they would all return. Bechulal, then proudly exhibited a red "rainbow" sari in brocade that he had woven. The warp was dyed in different hues and so the name. He knew different Benarasi techniques like kaduwa buti, Jangla, tanchoi, mina etc.The yarns were given by the "kotidaar" from the nearby Saraiyya village who then collected the finished products to the "maalik" in Badi Bazaar, Benares. About 500 looms had closed down in the past 4 to 5 years. About 5 years back nylon and art silk mix saris were woven. Each sari would take 3 to 4 days and the weaver earned Rs.300/- . The main weaver was accompanied by a helper who earned Rs 400/- per month. There was work in all homes .There is no current for 8 hours a day and sometimes for 2 to 3 days. We have to weave under petromax light.

    Bechulal took us to the Gram Pradhan Surendra Narayan's house. He was a teacher in the higher secondary school. We explained the purpose of our visit to him. We were visiting the village for first hand information on the state of weavers in Varanasi. Our interest was in bringing back life to the handlooms that were on the verge of death. We wanted to meet the younger generation so that we could build the leadership qualities required for the trade. The Gram Pradhan mentioned that there were 15 of them between the age of 25 and 32 yrs of age who had either done their high school or intermediate .They could weave any product from scarves to saris.

    Gram Pradhan sent word to have a small gathering. There was a small audience of 5 to 6 people. They poured out their miseries. Even after weaving a product their wages were still an uncertainty. They were paid only when the product got sold in Benares. When we explained our objective of visiting the village, the villagers expressed their hope. Slowly the gathering increased in number. Women came forward and said that they would also like to work .They took us around the village and showed the working looms.

    Unlike Benares, the village premises were clean. The respect they gave to their occupation was evident in the careful demeanour in the loom shed .Often the looms occupied most of the space in the house. Open windows sometimes without bars allowed some light in the day. The looms that are working today are partly owned by the kotidaar as the jacquard attachments and design cards are provided by them.

    As we moved from one hut to the next more number gathered around us. The younger weavers had gathered and they showed some promise. One of them could speak Hindi and manage English. They were ready to do anything to bring some work into the village. On their own initiative, they grouped themselves to make a list of weavers in the village with the details. The process had already begun…

    An old man broke down ……what we can do Sahib, please help us! We will die of hunger!!”

    We had started from Benares to visit a few villages in Sarnath area but the sight in one village gave us such a heavy heart that we returned back . There are 8 blocks in Benares and each block has 40 villages!!

    Shyam Sunder Jaiswal , the zari maker and his nephew who had accompanied us were dumbfound in realising that reality has been so close to them within 6kms and nobody knew!!

    As a student of Textile design from a National Institute, I was put face to face with ground reality! Our classrooms never dealt with the conditions of weavers. While we are equipped for modernisation, there needs to be more sensitising towards our own heritage. It is a pity that numerous funds are bifurcated every year for the cause of the weaver! Not a penny has reached them and India got freedom in 1947! The year is 2007 and majority of the population is still at the clutches of dependency!

    As we moved away from Naevada, the wrinkled image of the desperate old man haunted us...

    “Please do something for us ..... We will die of hunger!!”

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