Jayalalithaa government's move to contribute to the TN Co-operative Handloom Weavers Security Scheme after Centre stopped its contribution is a welcome step
In a major relief to weavers, the Tamil Nadu government has decided to contribute to the Tamil Nadu Co-operative Handloom Weavers Savings and Security Scheme as the Centre had stopped its contribution towards the scheme.
The chief minister said this would go a long way to mitigate the plight of weavers in the state. Jayalalitha also announced the State government's decision to increase grants to mulberry farmers.
Making a suo motu statement, she said members admitted under this scheme were contributing eight paise per rupee of wages earned and the State government's contribution would be four paise per rupee of wages earned by each weaver.
The chief minister said the Central government contributed four paise as matching contribution under the Central Thrift Fund Scheme and the above amount was deposited in the government account and the interest was utilised for implementing the old age pension scheme, family pension scheme and health package scheme for handloom weavers. Jayalalithaa said since the Centre stopped its contribution towards the scheme in 2007 and there was a request from weavers to the State government to compensate the loss, her government had decided to make the contribution.
The chief minister said a total of 76,051 handloom weavers would benefit from the scheme and it would cost an additional amount of Rs. 5 crore per year. Tamil Nadu is a leading State in the production of the bivoltine silk (white silk), mulberry cultivation and cocoon rearing and the government would increase the grant for mulberry farmers from Rs. 4,125 to Rs. 6,750 per acre to sustain production and to encourage farmers.
Under the revised grant, a farmer would get a maximum of Rs. 16,875 per hectare and farmers cultivating mulberry on 5,000 acres would get a total of Rs 3.37 crore as grant. The Chief Minister also announced increase in the grant given to farmers involved in sericulture to modernise silk worm rearing and farm equipment to increase production. The grant will be increased from Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 37,500 and a total of 1200 farmers will get Rs. 4.5 crore. This will lead to a farmer earning Rs. 1 lakh per hectare, she added. A total of 76,051 handloom weavers will benefit from the scheme.
The Tamilnadu Handloom Weavers' Co-operative Society, popularly called as Co-optex, established in 1935, has a long and rich tradition in handlooms and history that dates back over 76 years, even before Indian Independence.
Behind the timelessness of tradition kept alive for so many decades, is the handloom weaver, who is the backbone of this large network of 4.13 lakhs of Handlooms in Tamilnadu of which 2.19 lakhs Handlooms are in co-operative fold, 200 showrooms and of Rs.632 crores turnover, that is Co-optex. Today, Co-optex is the No.1 Apex Handloom Co-operative Society in the country because of its talented, dedicated and devoted clan of handloom weavers from all over Tamilnadu.
Handloom weavers have been representing their problems to the government but their pleas have elicited nothing more than temporary measures. And as the situation began to deteriorate early this year, they organised dharnas and agitations at the local level. When everything failed, and their families faced starvation, the weavers of Srivilliputhur set up community gruel centres. Soon more gruel centres came up in traditional weaving centres. Under the programme, which started from within and in which the entire community is participating, a group of youngsters goes around the village collecting foodgrains, pulses and vegetables, prepares gruel in a common kitchen, and supplies it to the weavers' families once a day.
Meanwhile, the Sellur Handloom Cloth Manufacturer's Association has demanded the government to impose ban on hoarding of cotton yarn. The association urged the state and Central Governments to take necessary measures to stop hoarding of cotton yarn.
The association urged the Central Government to impose a lifetime ban on exports of waste cotton in view of its great demand in local market.
It demanded that the yarn price fixing committee should introduce measures to lower cotton yarn prices. It said the bank loan interest rates should be fixed at six percent for all those engaged in textile production. Further, the demands included making a provision for making yarn available to handloom weavers at a subsidised rate of Rs. 25 per kg, and to extend the subsidies and tax rebates being provided to cooperative sector weavers to private weavers also.
Moreover, the association called for abolishing the levy of sales tax on cone yarn for powerloom weavers and urged the government to make sincere efforts to end power outages and introduce incentives for handloom exports so as to revive the domestic industry.
If the handloom industry has thus far survived competition from the powerlooms, the liberalised policy regime, market instability and government apathy, it is largely because of its own resilience. Now with demand disappearing for traditional handloom products owing to changing consumer preferences, poor marketing facilities, dearth of knowledge, skills and technical expertise to adapt to changing demand and lack of infrastructure to upgrade the looms, the handloom sector is a shambles. If the industry, the second largest employer in Tamil Nadu after agriculture, is to survive and the lakhs of weavers' families are to be saved from their desperate situation, it needs to be re-oriented with sound government support.