Twelve weavers committed suicide in two villages of Krishna District in a span of three years since 2010 and the living conditions of the community members is no better even today.
Unable to feed the five-member family, 36-year-old Perisetti Dattatreya and his wife Nagalaxmi gave their elder daughter, Lalitha, to one of their childless relative couples and were never able to get her back.
On April 5, Dattatreya, who owed about Rs.1 lakh to his Master Weaver and others, committed suicide by slitting his throat with a knife on his bed at the Government Hospital, Machilipatnam. “Left with no option to run his home amid debt-ridden conditions, he was in severe depression and took alcohol continuously for the three days before resorting to the extreme step. He just transferred the burden on to me,” said Dattatreya’s wife Nagalaxmi in Kappaladoddi village of Guduru.
With the suicide of another handloom weaver Metla Rama Rao on July 15, when he failed to repay a debt of Rs.50,000, raised to meet medical expenses of his mentally unsound son, the number of weavers’ suicides shot up to 12 since 2010 including four this calendar year alone in two areas – Kappaladoddi in Guduru mandal and Pedana town.
Andhra Pradesh Weavers’ Workers’ Union State Vice-President Katta Hemasundar Rao and Kappladoddi Weavers’ Cooperative Society member Ekkala Kotaiah have listed 18 suicides in Pedana and Kappaladoddi. Most of the deaths here, including that of a woman weaver and a 17-year-old youth in the past decade, however, go unreported in official records, they said. Numerous suicides went unreported as the victim families feared shame attached to suicide and lack of money to meet the expenditure for post-mortem procedures. Most weavers who have taken the extreme step, do not even own a house or weaving equipment to become a member of the weavers’ society. “Master Weaver provides us shelter, work and credit and in return deducts rent for the shelter from monthly payment, apart from dictating prices of the material produced like sarees,” Ms. Nagalaxmi told The Hindu.
She continues weaving, while her daughter Lavanya, a class X student, does imitation jewellery work at home and son is a weaver turned Kalamkari artisan. All put together, they earn barely Rs.4,000 per month. In Kappaladoddi, that has one of the highest weaver population of the district, the SC families too are engaged in the profession.