The second-largest employment sector after agriculture with an employee of more than 9 million, the weaving industry is in shambles due to COVID 19. Farmer’s and all traditional producers are the backbones of our society. We depend on them directly or indirectly. The weavers are one among them. They were already not getting proper wages and now the lockdown has made their life worse. The entire world was shaken by the deadly pandemic and India went into lockdown for nearly 5 months now, yet still, we weren’t able to contain the virus. The constant fear of pandemic on one side and the bombardment of questions arising in mind is on the other side. What will happen to the textile industry? When will the virus go? Will people be interested in buying handloom sarees again? And so on. The world faces pandemic in unified isolation, it’s really important to consider how the unfolding crisis is affecting the people who make our clothes, retailers are shutting their doors here and with the economy moving in a concern state as the most severely threatened at the moment while some are encouraging their customers to work online instead. The reality is that as we are forced to stay in our homes we are financially burdened and buying new clothes seems like a distant dream.
World-famous traditional saree with a legacy of 400 years are woven by 10,000 families in Karnataka, but now, their lives have come to a standstill with zero business in the past four months. Over 62,000 handlooms and power loom have shut shops. These weavers usually earn the most between March and July. With marriages either put on hold or allowed with restriction, the sector has lost on it’s a major source of revenue. 17% of sarees has a market in Maharashtra and it is the worst affected state by the pandemic, the beautiful sarees are stacked on racks. In these weaver clusters, some are laborers who work with cooperative societies where they earn on a daily bases. Most of the other weavers in these areas are on handloom or power loom, they sell their sarees directly to wholesalers. Currently, the wholesalers are not buying from them and the online market has been a difficult task for them. People enquire for hours and buy one or two sarees, even intricately looking design saree looks striking which means it needs a day or two of weaving and allied efforts of the entire family are behind it. The history and legacy to handloom saree date back to the 8th century which is woven in silk, art silk, and cotton. Pallu is what sets them apart, the technique of weaving the pallu is different in Karnataka. The weavers have been following their ancient art but they do not believe the next generation will be able to continue it or rather they wouldn’t want to take weaving in the first place.
1) The lockdown is slowly being lifted yet; the fear or the spread of coronavirus hasn’t stopped. Since a loss of handloom weavers are living in rural areas, where education is not yet reached, the fear factor spread like wildfire. Many are refusing to travel here and there as they are the financial support to their family and if anything happens to them then their family will be left with no means for revenue. There is also no assurance that the textile industries will kickstart right away. With many in their hometown, the industries are trying to focus on bringing protection and the start will be delayed.
2) Buyers are hesitant as the market been shut down for a long time.
3) There will be a shortage in the payment cycle as many are left unemployed due the pandemic growth.
4) There will be an intense struggle with import and export until the international airway borders aren’t opened.
Everything that was saved on through past sales has been now used, and now they are left with nothing to survive. Many don’t even know other jobs except weaving. They take the thread from traders and give back the product but now the traders are either hesitant to give or the market is closed, they are left abandoned. Even the stocks of thread they had have been used up. In some areas only now that the lockdown is eased, the weavers are beginning their job again. The government had nearly forgotten that this sector exists and now 9 million people are unemployed. If the government announces any assistance then that would make their background strong. After demonization and GST inducement, the weavers were the most affected by it. On one hand, they weren’t vetting proper wages and now this pandemic has pushed them with nothing left.
This is indeed an alarming situation as our tradition is on its blink of extinction. If every weaver decided to leave the culture and art for survival and if the younger generation doesn’t come forth or if India is not going to develop its rural parts then handloom will die soon. Every sector has started to shift to work from home, but that is not possible for the handloom industry for we have not yet taken technology to them. With the increase in technology, this is the right time for us to bring tech to these sector workers if we ever want to save this beautiful culture. It’s time to press the reset button in the textile industry and take them digital. If we do not take a step now then there will be a lot of damage that we will be facing. For instance; Top restaurants refused to go digital saying that there was no need for it while the small restaurants that chose the digital part are now more active and successful during this situation. And the reputation was also elevated. Just like that, we should take the textile industry digital. Many online websites and applications have been active recently and are developing to provide facilities to explore the designs, texture, material, quality, and trade all in one place.
Hence by taking handloom digital, at least the post-COVID worsening can be minimized and a new revolution can be made because if India has to develop, it should develop including them together.