Migrating and marginalizing Chhattisgarh weavers

Posted on August 24, 2007. Filed under: Article after shoot |

For a project of Gramodyog department I got opportunity to interact with weavers and craftsmen closely.  I visited northern and central Chhattisgarh to see and understand the conditions of their living and market. We heard many things about handicraft so that I am not focusing on it. Here, I am only focusing on handloom. I talked with weaver families, Mahajans, government officials and society members to understand the process and market.


According to official data there are 14000 handlooms and 42000 weavers in Chhattisgarh and government is earning approximately Rs. 35 crore per year from them. Weaving is the second largest industry i. e. next to agriculture in Chhattisgarh. The whole family works in the process of weaving and this is quite a time consuming work.


Other than beautiful weaving of Kosa, cotton Sarees and dress materials, two different things strike me. Firstly, poor condition of the weavers and another thing is, only few families, society members, middlemen and of course government officers are making huge amount of money.


Here I am giving an example of village Pandravan. Pendravan is near Sarsiwan in Raipur district. There are around 150 Dewangan weaver families. They weave Cotton Saree, Salwar, Dhoti and Bed Sheets etc. Their speciality is making Bapta Saree (Orissa Pattern).


There is a setup “Bajrang Bunkar Sewa Samiti”. Govind Devangan is president of Samiti. It has an Apex office, which provide employment to the weavers (by providing yarn and market and training). But most profit goes to Apex employ and to the President of the society.


“We have 34 handlooms but is it closed since last two years” Says Dolamani Sahu. He is in-charge to help weavers for loan, to train, to provide information and to employthem. It is amazing that on one side number of weaver families are migrating and other side 34 looms and lying idle. I saw, they all are new and I don’t think that they have ever been used. Dolamani Sahu is complaining for not being provided adequate yarns from the Raipur Apex. Again he says “Yaha kya kya aur kitne parivaron ka dhyan rakhate rahenge, aap hi bataiye.” Because of these kinds of attitude, weavers are leaving their traditional occupations. The conditions of the weavers are very poor hence this profession is slowly marginalizing from the mainstream profession of the society. Most of the families are dependent on the big traders who they call “Mahajan”. Mahajan don’t provide them yarns (in some villages Mahajan provides but not here) so for yarn and other weaving related raw materials, weavers have to go 19 km away to Sarangarh or far away Chandrapur by bus or cycle to on their own expenditure to purchase the required materials.


Govind Dewangan is the biggest Mahajan of Pendrawan. He himself has looms; all are in running conditions and also offloaded some orderes to small and medium weavers. He has a shop in the village and he directly sells the finished materials to the city Mahajans. 


As we know that every year, from this area (Mahasamund and Raipur) many farmer families migrate due to agricultural disaster. But Dewangan families never migrate because of their weaving profession. Most of the families migrate to Delhi to earn because they can get same work in private mills. There are many mills in Ranibagh, Shakur Basti and Panipat in Delhi. Whole families earn Rs. 2500 to 3000 per month.


Many families are fully dependent on weaving. Even they do not have another option like agriculture to earn. More than 10 families from this village have just migrated and many are planning. Many people from here have settled down in Delhi and in different cities. I met Panchram Dewnagan. 10 years earlier he migrated to Delhi. He has no agricultural land. Weaving is his only way to earn. Here, he is working in contract basis for Mahajan. His whole family earns hardly Rs. 250 to 300 a week. Panchram’s younger brother is in Delhi. When Panchram migrated to Delhi, he was surprised to see and meet many families from his neighboring villages like Bilaigarh, Sarangarh, Bhanvarpur, Bhatagao, Birra, Kakirda and Katagi. Nearly 100 –150 weaver families live in each of these villages. Even, in Pendravan, many families are leaving this traditional occupation and adopting other small business or working as a labor.


More than 80 percent weaver families work as labor. They are living in very poor condition. These people need very much government help and aid. They must provide raw materials and direct marketing without interference of Mahajans, middlemen and government officers.


First time MLA from Congress party and trader Mr. Motilal Dewangan is blaming to opposition party for the present condition.


Tejendra Tamrakar


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3 Responses to “Migrating and marginalizing Chhattisgarh weavers”

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A help in the procurement of the raw material and offtake of finished goods is not enough for the revival of the weaving and survival of the weavers.The core of the problem lies somewhere else. I think it is a case of a serious mismatch between the current or recently changed global economic outlook on one hand and trditional conservative trading and surviving culture amongst the weavers on the other.
A change in one of these two is a must to bridge the difference. Expecting the global trends to make adjustments for the sake of a small minority in a corner of Chhattisgarh is expecting too much. It is the weavers only who, if they want first to survive and then to prosper with the time again, must modernise. Not just in technique and designs but more importantly in thier outlook and mindset. Days of expecting a strong helping hand – that too for a long and indefinite term – from the Government, are over. They must learn to face The Market. The Market will henceforth have a stronger say in their destiny than the government of the day is a part of the reality. If this part of the debate is settled, other points can follow.

If we want to servive in the comunity we have to do something special…………
Only govt. is not responsible for our betterness we should also think about ourselves.

Facing the market alone is not feasible for these weavers. They must pool their meagre resources, weave a substantial quantity of loom, so as to be able to bypass selling to the Mahajans or other middlemen, and be able to sell either to the government or to private traders. This may start as a small movement or co-operative but in order to be successful it must encompass a high number of weaver families over a large area and once they are able to outdo the middlemen in terms of economy of price and sale, the market will automatically respond to their production. Initially, the process would require not only financing but also initiative to see it through, but proper planning, participation, implementation and guidance would provide fruitful results.
For the benefit of the weavers it is essential to educate them about the importance of preserving their Traditional Knowledge, and the benefits of its proper utilisation over migration for the long run.
Also it should be an initiative by the weavers so as to be able to enjoy the profits.

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