The Ponfab manufacturing unit was set up over 40 years ago in order to cater to the international market, with their products being shipped to Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

For the past few years, the handloom weavers employed by Pondicherry Co-operative Handloom Export Development Project, Ponfab, have not been given any work. For those weavers, who depend on the amount of cloth that they weave for their daily wage, this has been a huge blow since many of them have not had a proper income for close to five years.

On Monday morning, the workers of Ponfab took out a rally under the aegis of the AICCTU demanding that the government supply the workers thread through the year and also urged that their wages be regularised and other benefits including a housing scheme be given to them.

According to one of the workers at Ponfab, many of the workers here started working the handloom when they were 15 years old, and since then they have not had any other profession. Now, without any thread and any work, many of the people are forced to look for other employment. Since they have no other skills, they end up taking up unskilled labour including cleaning houses and sometimes even construction work.

The Ponfab manufacturing unit was set up over 40 years ago in order to cater to the international market, with their products being shipped to Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

The fabrics produced at the unit were known across the world, and foreigners who visited the town would invariably buy bedsheets and curtains from here.

Now, even the government won’t use the cloth produced here for their free saris and dhoti schemes.

Around five years ago, it was decided that the textiles from Ponfab would be used as a part of the free sari and dhoti scheme, with the bulk coming from Pontex. It was only since that scheme was introduced that Ponfab started to decline.

Slowly, the orders stopped coming from the Government and the money did not come in regularly. Then, the thread supply became erratic, which meant that in any given year, one worker would have only one or two months of work, the worker said.

Just recently, a part of the weaving shed collapsed injuring five people, but no action has been taken to repair the shed or to make our working conditions more bearable, the worker said.

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