National Handloom Day is celebrated on August 7 every year. It is a salute to weavers and others in the industry to promote the handmade and the handwoven.
It was on August 7, 1905 that a formal proclamation was made at the Calcutta Town Hall to boycott foreign goods and rely on Indian-made products. This was a major event in Swadeshi Movement.
India has the largest and widespread weaving industry in the world, be it Tamil Nadu’s famous Kanchipuram saris or Assam’s Muga (golden silk) mekhela sadors, the Paithani weaves of Maharashtra or Benarasi brocades of Uttar Pradesh.
While different definitions for the word have evolved since the Handloom (Reservation and Articles for Production) Act, 1985, where ‘handloom’ meant “any loom other than powerloom”, in recent years it has become more elaborate.
In 2012, a new definition was proposed: Handloom means any loom other than powerloom; and includes any hybrid loom on which at least one process of weaving require manual intervention or human energy for production.
While there are nearly 13 government schemes currently for weavers, there’s basically three percent that is aware of the Weavers Health Insurance Scheme and only 10.5 percent know of the credit waivers for loans that they can avail.
The need for awareness, accessibility to markets, and design R&D, easy access to raw material and better credit support can make a difference to weavers in different corners of the country.
Problems faced by weavers
The Fourth All India Handloom Census (2019-2020) cites raw material support needed by nearly 59.5 percent of weaver household.
From cotton, silk, and woollen yarn to dyes, costs have increased and so has the shortage. In 2015, a representation of the Confederation of Indian Textile Industry had raised concerns of the shortage of cotton for weavers in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra.
They had to travel long distances to get cotton added to their transportation costs. Besides, smaller weavers have been unable to buy in bulk leading to lower output of material.
Quite often smaller weavers are at the mercy of money lenders, and suicides have made headlines in these recent years.
Poor infrastructure, older looms, and inaccessibility to reach prime markets have made lives of handloom weavers even more difficult.