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Weavers of Sualkuchi forced to make distress sale


SUALKUCHI, Aug 21 - Known for its delicate weave, exclusive pattern and splendid design, Sualkuchi silk has always been a wardrobe essential for every woman in the State.

But cheap machine-made fabrics and other cloths made from artificial yarns, besides the coronavirus-induced lockdown and floods have pushed the Sualkuchi handloom industry into distress.

Furthermore, excessive profit motive of the traders have compounded the woes of the weavers as they were compelled to sell their products at the rate fixed by the traders, which is even less than the cost price.

The condition of the weavers and artisans, who have been preserving this centuries-old cultural heritage, is gradually worsening as a result of which some of them have even switched over to other sources of livelihood like selling fish, meat and vegetables.

Due to their poor financial condition, the educated youths of the loomless weaver families had to work as wage earners at different industrial estates in the State.

The weavers and the artisans who are still preserving the reputation of the silk industry of the village against all odds have suffered huge losses as they failed to even recover the cost price of their products.

A recent survey revealed that when the weavers are forced to resort to distress sale, the traders are making hefty profits by selling their products.

The current market price of plain mulberry cloths measuring 91 cm in breadth and 12 metre in length is between Rs 5,500 and 6,000 against the cost price of Rs 5,000. The weavers are now having no other option but to sell it to the traders at Rs 4,500.

Likewise, they are forced to sell a piece of mekhela made from mulberry silk at Rs 850, which is even less than its cost price of Rs 900.

The producers get only between Rs 7000-7500 for each pair of mulberry chadar-mekhela with exclusive patterns against its cost price of 8,500 but the same is sold by the traders at a market price of Rs 15,000.

The excessive profit motive of the traders has led to the gradual decline of Sualkuchi handloom industry since 2013. The condition of the weavers and artisans further deteriorated due to the COVID-19 pandemic but the government does not seem to be interested in improving the marketing facilities and in promoting the cultural heritage of this village which was visited by Mahatma Gandhi in 1946 and by former president APJ Abdul Kalam in 2006.

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