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Three-day hunger strike by BJP in Hyderabad

Source: Organiser - Weekly      Date: 12/25/2011 8:25:34 PM

Three-day hunger strike by BJP in Hyderabad

Save the lives of 12.5 million people dependent on
handloom sector

$img_titleIn order to highlight the plight of weavers, bring it into public focus and create pressure on the government to take remedial steps, BJP national secretary Murlidhar Rao staged a three-day hunger strike in Hyderabad from December 14 to 16. Senior party leaders associated with the weaving communities from various states along with prominent Members of Parliament participated in the sit on. BJP president Shri Nitin Gadkari also addressed the weavers on December 16.

Talking to Organiser Shri Murlidhar Rao said India is the world’s largest producer of handlooms, turning out more than 5 billion metres of fabric in 2005. It accounts for 23 per cent of the total textile production in India. The major handloom weaving states in India are West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Assam and Manipur. Some 12.5 million people are dependent on handloom weaving for their livelihood.

Multiple schemes claimed to be formulated to improve the conditions of weavers, like training projects to work shed-cum-housing, cluster developments, weaver’s comprehensive welfare inclusive of health insurance, mill gate price scheme, marketing and export promotion, strengthening of weavers services centre, etc have failed to achieve their objectives. The condition of the common weavers in the country continues to remain desperate and distraught.

Majority of the weavers remain outside the reach of institutional mechanism and the burden of the weaving community in no way mitigated. Presently, majority of the weavers do not have even bank accounts and access to credit from formal institutions is a distant dream. Barely 10 per cent of the weavers, mainly those associated with Handloom Cooperatives, receive bank credit and other monetary support from government those outside the cooperative umbrella get nothing. The Planning Commission acknowledges that 80 per cent of handloom weavers depend on private money lenders who charge exorbitant interest rates. Societies are made to suffer on account of delay in payments running into lakhs of rupees for several months by the marketing organisations created by the government. In Andhra Pradesh alone APCO owes weavers societies money ranging from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 56 lakh.

Successive Congress Governments, in Andhra Pradesh and at the Centre, have neglected this sector for years and have pushed it towards decimation. The condition of weavers, during the rule of Congress-led UPA, has deteriorated sharply all across the country, including Andhra Pradesh. Suicides by weavers have reached epidemic proportions. According to state government figure, 700 weavers committed suicide in Andhra Pradesh in recent times (the actual figure is around 2,000). The reasons include lack of regular job-work, inadequate wages, indebtedness, negligence in paying bills by government agencies to weavers for their products, high cost of production, no remunerative price and ill health. Even when government declares financial assistance to the families of victims, it is not delivered one pretext or the other.

“We must bear in mind that weavers are a self-respecting community, taking enormous pride in their skill and workmanship. This renders them unfit for menial labour, with the result that even non-skilled labourers are better paid than weavers. The community has an almost zero crime rate, a testimony to their honest devotion to their craft,” said Shri Murlidhar Rao.

Keeping the importance of the sector in view, in terms of the sheer numbers of people involved, the size of the handloom economy and the urgency of stemming the tide of weavers’ suicides, the Bharatiya Janata Party has pro-actively taken up the issues confronting weavers at various levels. The party has conducted hundreds of cluster meetings, prepared extensive documentation, undertaken public mobilisation and mass contact programmes through its local office bearers.                 


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