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Lockdown proving to be a disaster for Sualkuchi handloom industry


SUALKUCHI, May 7 - They have a dream to make a mark in the global garment industry. Although they are yet to come under any government scheme like Startup India, still they have been trying their best to achieve the goal. But the COVID-19 induced lockdown nightmare has hit them like a bolt from the blue.

Abinash Baishya and Subhash Baishya, both in their mid-20s, are two among the few youths of Sualkuchi, who adopted the traditional handloom business as their way of livelihood. Both have been in touch with the craft from their childhood and have expertise in it.

�I have been associated with the craft industry since my childhood and a year ago I have started my own business by taking a loan of Rs 4 lakh. At present I have five looms and five employees. Now as the pandemic has hit the market, so it has become very difficult for me to sustain the business,� Abinash told The Assam Tribune.

He said that every weaver of Sualkuchi has been severely affected in the prevailing situation and it has become impossible for them to pay their employees due to a drastic fall in sale.

Echoing the same sentiments, Subhash, a college drop-out, said, �I have been in this business since the last four years, but the ongoing pandemic has turned into a disaster for us. Post-lockdown, the industry will not survive without government stimulus.�

The duo alleged that due to some reasons, the garment industry of Sualkuchi has already become a loss-making venture and in the past ten years around 30,000 looms have closed down.

�In such a situation, our products will drain out in distress sale, depriving us from any profit. On the other hand, without distress sale we cannot manage to pay the salary of the employees,� they said.

Although both the Central and State governments have been implementing a series of schemes to attract the new generation to entrepreneurship, yet the duo said that till today they did not get any facility or assistance from the government and most of their friends are not interested in the handloom industry for which Sualkuchi is known to all.

�If the government cooperates with us, then within ten years we could turn the handloom industry of Sualkuchi into a profit making business. I have already chalked out a plan for it,� Abinash asserted.

Hiralal Kalita, another garment trader of Sualkuchi informed that the lockdown disrupted both the import of raw materials and export of products. In such a situation, without proper planning the village industry will not survive.

Kalita used to export muga products to Japan and the USA. But after the outbreak of coronavirus his business suffered a lot as both the countries stopped import of the products.

He said that without government stimulus, 60 per cent of the handloom industry will disappear soon. He also emphasized on the need of a Bastra Bank at Sualkuchi along with a full-fledged textile institute and weaver service centre.

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