Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Why Handlooms are Dying in India- An Economic Argument

This is an adaptation to the answer to the post submitted on facebook by a reader:

Some people say that handlooms in India are dying and the reason is the emergence of powerloom and MNREGA. I agree with them that there is an imminent death of the handloom sector, but the reasons are different than what they site. Powerlooms and MNREGA are just alternatives they have for the handloom. The reasons are purely economic. One, switching of weavers from handloom to powerloom is just analogous to our switching to smart phone from your old phone for the simple reason that it is more efficient and productive. So a weaver, when he finds that the product of a powerloom is not so much different or even better from the point of view of the returns for his family, he will switch to alternatives like any rational human being. Running a powerloom is not as as simple that one relegate the task to some less skilled person. A break in powerloom whether warp or weft can ruin a whole product for the simple reasons that by the time it is noticed and the machine is stopped, a lot of picks have already gone by resulting in a patta or chira as the case may be- of course I am talking about the primitive powerlooms prevalent in our country without the warp or weft stop motions.

They also say that to protect the handlooms they are offering weavers twice the usual wages. However, their offering of double or even triple wages help a little, as their baseline wages are so small in relation to the effort involved that doubling or tripling may not help much.

Khadi sector is already diluted as the “amber charka” is like a mini ring frame taking its inputs from the mill product- roving. Only difference is that it has more defects and it is S-twisted. Genuine Charkhas produce so little that it is only used on the national days.

I feel it is our greed- the high profile elite consumers- that we let the weavers stick to the handloom when they have much better alternatives including powerloom. Let us not bind them into their age old professions for our greed by throwing them with yarn subsidies and increments in wages which are abysmally low as compared to their efforts. And they are realising that which is the effect you are witnessing across all the clusters. We need to remember that while business is talking numbers, they are also understanding numbers and taking actions which are good for their survival. Lets not make them the slaves of the handloom in th name of protecting the handlooms. 

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