GST deals fresh blow to Chirala weavers

A weaver family engrossed in making a colourful sari at their house-cum-workshed at the Weavers’ Colony in Chirala.

A weaver family engrossed in making a colourful sari at their house-cum-workshed at the Weavers’ Colony in Chirala.  

‘Crisis in the sector will deepen if the Centre fails to act’

The loom in Sunkara Ravikumar’s house in wavers colony runs close to 18 hours each day with all the four members of the family busy weaving saris.

His aged mother contributes by winding spools of yarn and joining threads of the weft for hours together. The family produces about 10 colourful saris with heavy pallu work and a grand border in a month but the income is just ₹12,000 to ₹15,000.

For the beleaguered family, the imposition of the 5% Goods and Services Tax on hank yarn and 12% GST on cloth comes at a time when mill-made cloth is flooding the market in a big way.

So is the case with over 10,000 families in Chirala and Vetapalem mandals of Prakasam district which are clueless about their future.

“There is no work for our hands as the offtake of handloom cloth by readymade units after the GST rollout,” says a group of weavers at Nayinipalli village, near Chirala. Hitherto, readymade textile units lifted 30% of the cloth produced by the weavers.

The mushrooming of computer-aided design and embroidery units (cadeus) which churn out look-alikes of the famous Chirala saris has only added to the woes of the traditional weavers, State Handloom Weavers Welfare Organisations Federation State secretary B. Jwala Narasimham told The Hindu.

Chirala, which gets its name from chiraa (sari) has witnessed over 600 suicides and starvation deaths in the weaver families since 2000 in the wake of the Centre imposing 9% excise duty on hank. The crisis may trigger another spell of suicides/starvation deaths if the Centre does not act, he feels.

The BJP, which rode to power on the plank of Swedeshi, has a responsibility to nurture the sector by exempting it from the new indirect tax during the next review on GST, says another weaver Goli Srinivasulu while displaying an attractive sari made by him. The Handloom (Reservation of Articles of Production) Act, 1985, is implemented more in breach than in observance, he adds.

Plea for tech centre

“We have totally stopped production of among other items, lungis, dhotis and blankets unable to compete with the ones made by power looms,” says Sunkara Sivakumar.

The weavers plead for setting up of a regional centre of the Venkatagiri-based Indian Institute of Handloom Technology at Chirala to enable them to produce value-added silk saris as the margins are relatively better.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 11:53:09 PM |

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