BREAKING NEWS

This weaving community from Kurnool is crying for help

Chintakindi Mallesham, the man who belonged to the weavers’ community, may have invented the “Asu Machine” to reduce the manual work of weavers that has benefitted them manifoldly. While a movie based on Mallesham’s life has shed light on the problems of the weavers’ community, some weavers are still in a languishing state in Andhra Pradesh. 
 
The weaving community in Kurnool has seen a drastic turnaround in its fortunes in recent years.The advent of powerlooms, combined with low wages and an influx of Gadwal silk saris, have turned out to be the prime factors behind the downfall of the community.
 
The Yemmiganur Handloom Weaver’s Society, established in 1938, saw its popularity peaking in 1998 when it housed over 2,500 members. Now, this number has failed to just 534 people who make a living out of weaving. This drop in weavers has also brought down the total number of (sale) outlets. 
 
There were over 60 outlets all over Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Karnataka, but now the number has trickled down to just 25. A majority of the outlets are located in AP, with only five in Karnataka and a solitary outlet in Telangana.
 
Explaining the reason behind the decline in the Yemmiganur weavers’ numbers, locals said that the wages being paid to weavers were low and comparable to that of waiters working at restaurants. “A person working at a restaurant would earn the same money per day, and even get food at the end of the shift,” he said.
 
Unfortunately, weavers make about ₹300 per day, and get a bonus of up to 14% of their annual earnings.
 
More demand, cheaper products
 
The Yemmiganur Society is famous for weaving cotton towels, bedsheets, and lungis. However, these cotton products are now on a downward spiral due to the advent of powerlooms which have enabled mass production of cotton goods at relatively cheaper prices. This prompted a mass migration of weavers from weaving cotton to weaving Gadwal silk saris.
 
The Gadwal silks yield higher prices as there is a significant demand for the saris. A worker can make about ₹3,000 per week if he makes Gadwal silk saris, which is not possible while weaving cotton. 
 
A dying tradition
 
The community is on its last legs, as the younger generations seem uninterested in taking over the baton. Most of the youths migrate to Bengaluru or Hyderabad for higher education or for jobs. The average age of a handloom weaver is 55-60 years in Yemmiganur. (Weavers’) Their kids are more interested in pursuing higher education and therefore, are leaving Yemmiganur for better job prospects than to keep the tradition of weaving alive.

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