Weavers need a helping hand from Government

MADURAI, MARCH 24. Handloom weavers of Madurai district are a distraught lot, finding themselves hamstrung in bettering their conditions owing to absence of social security schemes for them.

Despite continuing for several decades in this vocation, they are not able to seek shelter under social security schemes of the Government, claim trade unions. Trade union sources told The Hindu here today that many underwent hardships and were unable to extricate themselves from the situation as repeated pleas and agitations by several trade unions had evoked little response from the Government.

The weavers in Sellur and Anuppanadi, which are the hubs of weaving activities in the district, slog for more than ten hours but earn a pittance. More more than 20,000 weavers eke out a living in Sellur alone, and on an average, a weaver earns Rs.50 after toiling from dawn to dusk.

A major grouse of the unions is that despite a sizable presence of weavers in the district, none had been enrolled in the Employees State Insurance (ESI) scheme, Employees' Provident Fund or any of the insurance schemes.

Thus, they have been deprived of many benefits. Due attention is not paid to our socio-economic living conditions, a section of the weavers say.

The Handloom Common Labours Union, affiliated to the Indian National Trade Union Congress, has urged the State Government to enhance the wages for 2005. According to its district secretary, D. S. Sudharsan, members employed in handloom units should be paid at least 50 per cent more than what they get now. Similarly, even the bonus should be hiked at the rate of Rs.75 a month.

The weavers should be given Rs.8 towards tea allowance instead of Rs.4 being given at present.

Having been denied the benefits of insurance and ESI schemes, unless measures were initiated to provided such benefits, the lot of their family members would continue to languish, he said.

The union submitted a memorandum highlighting their demands to the Collector, D. Raajendiran, recently.

Meanwhile, the organising secretary of the Madurai District National General Workers Union, K. Muniyandi, has urged the Government to provide identity cards to handloom weavers and ensure that they are provided with social security schemes.

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