Pandemic takes a huge toll on Chinnalapatti weavers

Stagnant Sungudi saris at Chinnalapatti near Dindigul.   | Photo Credit: G. Karthikeyan

The raging pandemic has doomed the future of weavers in Chinnalapatti and for many survival has become a big challenge.

On the one hand, there is no work and, on the other, the finished goods have been languishing in their homes for at least 100 days. The weavers have no money, but merchants who supplied raw material such as yarn are pestering them for payment.

Close to 5,000 residents out of a total population of 40,000 in Chinnalapatti have been dependent directly on weaving from time immemorial. The town is famous for its superior texture and top class finishing of sungudi and kora saris, which are most sought after by customers even in far off locations such as Mumbai and Uttar Pradesh.

There are about eight societies in which weavers are members. Every week or fortnight, the societies give them yarn and they, in turn, weave the saris and give the finished products and receive payment depending on the quality.

After the pandemic broke out and governments declared lockdown from March 25, things slipped from bad to worse and survival has become a big question mark. “Restarting our work is still far away. Getting a gruel to keep ourselves alive is tough,” they say.

Confined indoors for long days without any job, they have no clue when normalcy will be restored.

In normal times, Cooptex procures sungudi saris from the weavers and dispatches them to different cities and other States. Likewise, many private textile chain stores and showrooms in Chennai and Kancheepuram also buy the kora and sungudi saris.

“This is Adi and we would have sold at least one lakh saris as womenfolk going to temple festivals during this month purchase them. With temples closing down, there has been no orders,” says K.R. Parameswaran, a weaver and member of Anjugam Weavers’ Society.

The closure has not only hit weavers but even those dependent on the business. For instance, the saris cannot be transported even to other districts within the State due to restrictions in obtaining e-passes, says Asokan, a weaver with Kamala Nehru Weavers' Society.

He weaves Amman model saris for customers in Kancheepuram district. Washermen have also been hit badly, as they supply starch, he points out.

Customers from Coimbatore, Udamalpet, Tirupur, Palani and other towns are fond of Amman saris, which is printed with red and yellow borders symbolising the colours and idols of shrines. The orders that are placed around March never came this year, resulting in terrible loss, he adds.

DMK MLA I. Periasami, who represents Athoor Assembly Constituency, has appealed to the State government and the Ministry of Handlooms at the Centre to grant monetary assistance of ₹10,000 to each weaver through societies.

The State government must also lift the saris from weavers and release payment, which will give them a much-needed breather, he says.

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Printable version | Sep 29, 2021 2:12:57 AM |

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