Karnataka floods: losses loom large over traditional weavers

A weaver standing in front of a pit loom that was submerged in the Malaprabha waters at Kamatgi in Bagalkot taluk.

A weaver standing in front of a pit loom that was submerged in the Malaprabha waters at Kamatgi in Bagalkot taluk.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Flooding and resultant damage may push more people to abandon traditional weaving

Somanna Goudar, a weaver at Kamatagi in Bagalkot district, is now trying to assess the losses that he suffered over the last week as water from the swollen Malaprabha flooded homes in this traditional weaving cluster.

Like him, hundreds of weavers across several weaving communities in Belagavi and Bagalkot districts are facing the prospect of their looms being damaged. Some have lost their homes, mostly built with mud. This year’s floods is the second in the last 10 years that has hit the already struggling weaving community whose numbers are dwindling fast. Many fear that the present losses could push more of them to abandon the sector.

In Bagalkot district, weavers in Kerur, Kamatagi, Sulebhavi and Amingad villages — historically known for weaving Ilkal saris — have been affected by the overflowing Malaprabha while those in Rabkavi and Bannahatti have been affected by the Krishna waters. Weavers in Surebhan and Ramdurga villages in Belagavi district are also suffering the pangs of loss.

According to Mr. Goudar, a small damage to a pit loom could cost ₹5,000 to repair as some of the running wooden parts would have to be replaced because of flooding. “Weavers started assessing their damage from Tuesday after the water receded. We don’t know yet how many weavers’ homes have been badly affected and the number of looms damaged,” he said.

“Most weavers in the affected villages saw their raw materials and finished products being swept away in the floodwaters, while the looms have been damaged. Moreover, weavers who depend on daily wages have not been able to work in about a week,” said Vijaykumar Guled, a master weaver at Ilkal. Even during the 2009 floods, weavers were affected as their looms and houses were damaged, which, however, were rebuilt with government assistance, he added.

The secretary of Kamatagi-based Hucheshwara Weavers’ Cooperative Society, Nagesh Basappa Jayya, said a few weavers had already commenced weaving as daily wage was important. “They have used indigenous ways to repair looms and have started weaving,” he said. However, the community’s fear now is that many more may give up on weaving as did several hundreds in the village after the 2009 floods, he added.

Assessing damage

While the Textile Department started flood damage assessment from Tuesday, local weavers estimate that about 2,000 handloom weavers and an equal number of powerloom weavers have been affected by the floods. Powerloom in the border taluks in Belagavi have been worst hit.

A senior department official here said damage assessment for property was being done by Revenue officials, while the department would assess damage to raw materials, machinery, and finished goods before arriving at the overall damage suffered by the weavers. According to an official, it could take months for the community to recover.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 12:06:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/losses-loom-large-over-traditional-weavers/article29103849.ece

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