Members of the Andhra Pradesh Weavers Welfare Association, Epurupalem, hold the World Trade Agreement (WTA) signed by the Union Government, responsible for most of their existing woes and demand a string of measures to save the handloom industry which is in a doldrums.

In a representation made to the President of the country, they said modern textile industries were being promoted at the cost of handloom industry, a cottage industry which provided employment to nearly three crore rural population.

They pointed out that their counterparts in other countries enjoyed the privilege of buying raw material at a subsidy ranging from 30 per cent to 70 per cent. They said immediate remedial measures were needed to revive the industry and prevent its extinction.

Their demands include: Announcement of a National Handloom Policy, the draft for which was prepared by in 2006 by the Ministry of Textiles but the approval of the Parliament was awaited.

A separate financial bank with an investment of Rs. 15,000 crore to meet the working capital needs of 38.9 lakh looms, revival of the CSS schemes to ensure its benefits to the ground-level weavers and immediate steps for effective implementation of the Unorganised Sector Workers Social Security Bill, 2007. The bill was passed long back but the labour department had not started registration of workers.

They also demanded rehabilitation package to the 10 lakh-odd weavers who had lost livelihood due to the WTA and allocation of a Rs. 10,000 crore budget for handloom sector in 2013-14 to serve the cause of the weavers. A provision of Rs. 200 crore may be earmarked for welfare of women workers who comprised 64 per cent of the employers in the rural sector, they said.

With regard to losses incurred due to natural calamities, the association members pointed out that the handloom workers in the coastal belt of Andhra Pradesh had been incurring annual losses due to cyclones and heavy rains. This was in addition to the loss of 90 working days every year in the extreme hot summer days or rainy season.

Pointing to the fact that insurance facility for raw material was available only till the 10 Plan while it had been withdrawn from the 11 Plan, they insisted that the facility be restored from the 12 Plan period.

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