The increasing price of raw materials like yarn and dyes too have sounded the death knell to the traditions and livelihood means of an entire region

Chennamangalam handloom units, famous for their unique tradition of making Kerala’s traditional attires, are in dire straits.

The handloom units weave set mundu (a two-piece sari for women) and double mundu (closely related to dhoti) for men.

Weavers are exiting their traditional jobs in hordes because they cannot earn more than Rs. 150 daily whereas other jobs offer up to Rs. 700 a day for skilled workers.

Part-time workers form the backbone of the industry now, says Sojan P. A., secretary of Chennamangalam Handloom Weavers’ Cooperative Society, one of the oldest cooperatives still in business. He says that in 1954 when the society came into being, there were 201 members in the society, of whom only 24 were women. Now there are 1,028 members, of whom only 25 are men. Nobody can look after his or her family by weaving dhotis, said Mr. Sojan.

The increasing price of raw materials like yarn and dyes too have sounded the death knell to the traditions and livelihood means of an entire region, said Mr. Sojan.

The five cooperatives that keep the Chennamangalam tradition alive are in deep financial trouble. They have sustained huge financial losses by paying between Rs. 16 lakh and 18 lakh a year in interest on loans from cooperative banks.

Traditional support systems like subsidy for discount sales by societies had failed while weavers’ cooperatives were unable to access funds from the Union government under the Handloom package, said Mr. Sojan.

He said guidelines issued by the Centre for accessing funds under the Handloom package have made the cooperatives in the State ineligible. The stipulations include cash credit operations by a cooperative for a period of one year and at least one year of profitable operations over the last five years.

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