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GST to hit handloom sector in Andhra
By Sudhansu R Das
The state of Telangana has a rich handloom tradition and nearly 1.5 lakh handloom weavers of Nalgonda, Karimnagar, Mehabubnagar, Warangal, Khammam and Medak district in the state hone their skill to keep the tradition alive. Though the number of handloom weavers is dwindling the skill and artistry of handloom weavers survive due to the hard work, sincerity and dedication of a handful of senior waivers.

The handloom weavers are apprehensive of wage cut and job loss in the new GST regime. The 5% tax on yarn, 18% tax on services like warping and twisting and 5% tax on finished item will increase the cost of handloom item by 28%. If the cost of a silk saree is above Rs 1 lakh the tax will be 12% instead of 5%. So the overall increase will be 35% on exclusive handloom items. Senior weavers take months to weave high end products for exclusive customers. They are mostly engaged by big handloom traders, exporters, designers, master weavers and middlemen on wage basis or payment on the basis of finished product. An export quality handloom saree goes through various stages of production and it involves so many people including the children. An increase in input cost due to GST may lead to further cut in their meagre wage. It is said the imported fabric will become 18% cheaper in the new GST regime which may discourage handloom cloth users as the gap in price will widen further.

There are around 1000 weavers in Hujurabad village of Karimnagar district. Most of them sell their products to Telangana State Handloom Weavers' Co-operative Society, private people and traders. They make cotton dhoti, sarees, bedsheets, towels, lungis, mosquito nets, tapes and shirts for sale. The majority of the weavers get Rs 50 per day after working nine hour a day. A handful of skilled weavers are able to earn Rs 150 to Rs 200 per day. All the handloom weavers are above 50 year of age and continue to work till the age of 80s. In fact, they have no other option but to weave for a living. Though there are more than 35 government's development schemes for the weavers, the benefits hardly improve the living condition of the Hujurabad weavers. The young generation are no longer interested to weave due to low wage, uncertain future and lack of social recognition. Most of the weavers just survive on low wage.

An additional 5% GST on yarn will make things worse. The state of Telangana produces rich quality of cotton and silk. Unfortunately the weavers in Karimnagar donot get yarn at a reasonable rate. "We are unable to meet the market demand," said M Ramalingam(name changed), "when we get order we don't get yarns." If the weavers get yarn at a reasonable rate and get a transparent market they can have better profit margin from weaving profession. More jobs will be created in this sector. Though, the weavers receive pension, a paltry sum of Rs 1000 per month from government after they cross 50, they hardly get social recognition for their creative contribution.

The situation is not different for the Pochampally weavers who work hard to let live the famous ikat tradition. Gudimetla Sadasiva Rao, 82 weaves magic on cloth but his average daily income has fallen below Rs 130 per day. There are a few genuine weavers left in Pochampally who can add high value to the cloth with their skill and imagination. Smart designers buy Pochampally silk saree from senior weavers, put their brand name on it and sell it at a very high cost in the market. The original weavers do not have the share in the profit margin. As a result senior weavers lose interest in the profession or simply compromise with the quality for survival.

Puttapaka Padmashalis, a tribal community of Samsthan Naryanpur of Nalgonda district of Telangana make exotic handloom silk sarees which has become famous as Puttapaka sarees. A handful of tribal weavers are left to keep the famous weaving tradition alive despite low wage and poor living condition. Many of the Puttapaka Padmashalis have switched over to menial jobs. The tribal weavers used to add high value to silk fabrics with their creative skill and imagination. Many the Padmashalis sell their products to traders and handloom societies in Pochampally. Unless the government creates the right environment for the weavers, the famous weaving tradition will end soon. The state will lose huge revenue if the weavers' skill to add high value disappears.

The GST policy should be weavers one year back silk yarn was available at Rs 3000 per kg. Today cost has increased to Rs 4200 per kg. Yarn market is mainly controlled by traders and middlemen. The weavers do not get yarn in time and of good quality. Pochampally gets its yarn supply from Bangalore and dye from Mumbai at a higher cost. There are nearly 8000 handlooms in Pochampally. The majority of the weavers work for traders who sell the products across the country and abroad through different channels. The Telangana State Handloom Weavers Co-operative Society (TSCO) also markets handloom products. They supply yarn to weavers and pay them wages and collect finished products.


News Updated at : Thursday, July 13, 2017
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