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COVID-19 rips apart State weavers� dreams

By MANASH PRATIM DUTTA
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GUWAHATI, April 10 - Amid the prevailing situation, there will be no festivity in Assam this time celebrating Rongali Bihu, which means that the local handloom industry, in particular the local weavers for whom this season is the prime time of earning, will incur a huge loss, and they will have to suffer throughout the year because of this.

According to a senior official of the Assam Apex Weavers and Artisans Cooperative Federation Ltd (ARTFED), the apex body of the State�s weavers, they are likely to suffer a loss of Rs 20 lakh due to the ongoing crisis.

�Around 12,000 weavers from across the State are linked with us. We had set a target of production to each of them, and prior to the lockdown, most of the weavers achieved the target as well. But, now, we have no market to sale our products.�

�On the other hand, in general, before Rongali Bihu, every weaver used to earn around Rs 400 per day. This time, obviously there is no scope of that,� the official told The Assam Tribune.

Sources at the Assam Handloom and Textile department, meanwhile, informed that it had set a target of 18,000 gamosas for selling this time, but due to the lockdown the production has screeched to a halt. This will directly affect thousands of weavers across the State. To have a measure of the impending loss, the department will soon carry out a survey, it said.

Echoing similar sentiments, a senior official of the Assam Khadi and Village Industries Board (AKVIB) also said, �During the Rongali Bihu season we generally concentrate on producing gamosas and sador mekhelas. We have 20 production centres and 98 units of weavers across Assam. Our weavers had started the production but the lockdown has now hit them directly as we have not been able to provide a market for them.�

A Sualkuchi-based weaver Hiralal Kalita lamented that he had never faced such a critical situation in his life. Kalita, who exports muga products to Japan, said this situation would have a long-term impact on the market.

�I mainly depend on foreign tourists. It is the peak season for me, when I generally earn up to Rs 1 lakh per month. If the lockdown gets extended, then it will cause a huge loss to me. To repair the damage, I shall try to concentrate on the domestic market,� Kalita said. According to him, every month he exports 45 meters of muga fabric and 100 pieces of muga umbrellas to Japan.

Tourists from the US and Italy form the main bulk of customers of muga products for the Sualkuchi farmers.

�Since the coronavirus disease has caused extensive damage to both the US and Italy, we may not get customers from these two countries in the near future. During this time of the year, the workload for weavers of Sualkuchi tends to be so heavy that they hardly get any time to rest. Now, the situation has undergone a sea-change,� he said.

�Many of us also have bank loans; in such situation we have no idea as to how we are going to repay the loans,� Kalita said, heaving a deep sigh.

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COVID-19 rips apart State weavers� dreams

GUWAHATI, April 10 - Amid the prevailing situation, there will be no festivity in Assam this time celebrating Rongali Bihu, which means that the local handloom industry, in particular the local weavers for whom this season is the prime time of earning, will incur a huge loss, and they will have to suffer throughout the year because of this.

According to a senior official of the Assam Apex Weavers and Artisans Cooperative Federation Ltd (ARTFED), the apex body of the State�s weavers, they are likely to suffer a loss of Rs 20 lakh due to the ongoing crisis.

�Around 12,000 weavers from across the State are linked with us. We had set a target of production to each of them, and prior to the lockdown, most of the weavers achieved the target as well. But, now, we have no market to sale our products.�

�On the other hand, in general, before Rongali Bihu, every weaver used to earn around Rs 400 per day. This time, obviously there is no scope of that,� the official told The Assam Tribune.

Sources at the Assam Handloom and Textile department, meanwhile, informed that it had set a target of 18,000 gamosas for selling this time, but due to the lockdown the production has screeched to a halt. This will directly affect thousands of weavers across the State. To have a measure of the impending loss, the department will soon carry out a survey, it said.

Echoing similar sentiments, a senior official of the Assam Khadi and Village Industries Board (AKVIB) also said, �During the Rongali Bihu season we generally concentrate on producing gamosas and sador mekhelas. We have 20 production centres and 98 units of weavers across Assam. Our weavers had started the production but the lockdown has now hit them directly as we have not been able to provide a market for them.�

A Sualkuchi-based weaver Hiralal Kalita lamented that he had never faced such a critical situation in his life. Kalita, who exports muga products to Japan, said this situation would have a long-term impact on the market.

�I mainly depend on foreign tourists. It is the peak season for me, when I generally earn up to Rs 1 lakh per month. If the lockdown gets extended, then it will cause a huge loss to me. To repair the damage, I shall try to concentrate on the domestic market,� Kalita said. According to him, every month he exports 45 meters of muga fabric and 100 pieces of muga umbrellas to Japan.

Tourists from the US and Italy form the main bulk of customers of muga products for the Sualkuchi farmers.

�Since the coronavirus disease has caused extensive damage to both the US and Italy, we may not get customers from these two countries in the near future. During this time of the year, the workload for weavers of Sualkuchi tends to be so heavy that they hardly get any time to rest. Now, the situation has undergone a sea-change,� he said.

�Many of us also have bank loans; in such situation we have no idea as to how we are going to repay the loans,� Kalita said, heaving a deep sigh.

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