Last month, a team from DEF visited Attabira and Barpali in Bargarh district, and Nuapatna in Cuttack district of Odisha to access the socio-economic condition of weavers. And we were particularly impressed by the weavers of Nuapatna.
Weavers in Nupatna, about 70 kilometres away from the state Capital of Bhubaneswar, actually experiment with patterns, and are more meticulous and traditional in their process of extracting thread, spinning yarn and weaving Bangalore silk, Malda silk or Tasar sarees. Yet, they are among the poorest in Odisha. Their monthly household income is only Rs. 2,000 to 3,000.
Women in the clusters manually pull out Tasar yarn from the shells of Tasar silkworms after the worms are killed in their cocoon by the heat of a fire below. Children, on the other hand, help their fathers in applying starch to finished sarees. This way, the entire household is involved in the process of making a saree.
Weaving is a skill that is passed down by generations. However, due to low individual income and a time-consuming process, most of the youth is migrating to other professions. In Nuatpatna, especially, children start learning the skill of weaving from a very young age. According to master weavers in the cluster, it takes 10 years to learn the art and skill of weaving. However, often these children grow up and decide to migrate to Pune and Surat in search of work in factories. Quitting the profession after learning the skill for 10 long years is not only a waste of time and energy but also a waste of talent for these youngsters.
Meanwhile, the government’s efforts at improving the condition of weavers and promoting handicraft and handloom through its Cluster Development Programme have not had the ideal desired impact, and household incomes have only marginally increased since 2005.
However, what ails the weavers in Nuapatna the most is the role of middlemen. Weavers in this part of Odisha have absolutely no idea of the actual cost of raw material or of the selling price of their products. They are not even aware of how much profit the middleman is making.