Weavers in Musiri hail from low-income families and mostly weave sarees or dhoti. Almost every weaving household, barring three, weave on handloom. Like most weaving clusters, here too, the occupation is a family tradition where the art of weaving has been passed down the generations. In fact, children start weaving as early as at the age of 10. Women in the house spend about four hours separating and spinning the thread while men work on the loom for about eight hours a day, producing a simple saree or set of six to nine dhotis in two days.
Most of these weaver families work on a wage system, making sarees of dhotis, where they work for a middlemen or private businessmen on a design sample given to them. The raw material are bought by them or provided to them from Salem and Rasipuram. There are very few weavers who independently weave to produce and market their products due to lack of awareness, knowledge and access to the direct market. This explains the low wages that they earn for their work. Weavers are paid Rs. 250 per saree and Rs. 1,200 for nine dhotis. The same are then sold in the market for much higher prices, especially the sarees. Unfortunately, this low wage translates into the middlemen treating the weavers as labourers and not skilled artisans.
This probably explains why only 25 per cent of the population is involved in the weaving occupation while the rest have migrated to other professions and are working as masons, house helps, carpenters, porters and security guards among other occupations. Even the younger literate generation is looking for job opportunities in bigger towns or cities.
Musiri is not very old, some say that it has only seen major establishment and development about 40 years ago. Despite being a newer town, there has hardly been any improvement in the wages in the last 10 years. Language is a major issue for people who don’t understand
the local language. Caste is not a barrier in this part of India, and there is no discrimination on the basis of caste or sex. While weavers are very friendly, supportive and cooperative to each other, they are not much aware of the various government policies that may prove beneficial for them. Fortunately though, the weavers are willing to incorporate newer techniques into their traditional art to increase their wages.
The story is no different in nearby weaver clusters in the district.
DEF in partnership with Mphasis has initiated DCDP in Tiruchirappalli (Trichy), Tamil Nadu, to introduce ICT in critical aspects of cluster development, especially to improve and scale up weaving skills, designs, marketing and entrepreneurship, besides creating sustainable livelihood options for youth. Under this project, based on the recce report, Musiri will be transformed into DEF’s wireless hub with satellite centres established in Nomanadu, Tathaiyangarpet and Nataraja Nagar that will serve as CIRCs; special digital integrated resource centres will be set up in Musiri and Mangalam Pudur to help weavers to design and market products online.