Srinivas at his home-cum-micro enterprise in Pochampally
The next time you buy the famous Pochampally sari just think of the hard labour that has gone into weaving the masterpiece. I was therefore curious to meet some weavers whose work is so well appreciated and recognised when I got an opportunity a few days back to visit the Pochampally village in Telengana, about 40 kms from Hyderabad.
I met a 40-year-old weaver Srinivas at his home-cum-micro enterprise where two handlooms were operative, one by him and the other by his wife. I call it a home-cum-micro enterprise because in the small two room structure he not only has his equipment (I mean the handlooms) installed but also doubles it as a bedroom, a study room for his children and of course uses a portion of the second room as a kitchen. Sitting bare chested, Srinivas told me that he on an average (with help from his family) is able to complete seven saris in a month. "This is possible only with help from my wife. Otherwise I alone cannot do it," he told me. All that he earns in a month is Rs 9,000, which means Rs 300 a day. "This is still better. Till a year back, I was getting only Rs 200 a day."
He has two grown-up children, the elder daughter studying in BA Part II and his son in Inter Part I. Both of them help their parents but of course are not willing to take forward the family tradition. I asked them why, and they shied to reply. In Rs 200/day till last year that he was getting, Srinivas could manage to educate his children. Against all hardships, he was able to provide them with education. Certainly he deserves my salute.
Later, I walked to the Pochampally Handloom Weavers Coop Society to get a broader picture. I was told by the Manager that with every passing year the number of weavers was dwindling. From 900-odd some years ago only about 550 families are engaged in weaving now. The proliferation of power-looms have taken away most jobs. But also the low wages have forced people to move out looking for menial jobs in the city. This is corroborated by the owner of a company, who I met later, which specialises in providing maids, guards, and care takers. He told me that in Hyderabad alone there are about 3,000 such companies/employers, which provide security guards, maids etc. I asked how much must be the employment potential for such jobs, and the answer I got was anything around "10,000-20,000 a day"
Coming back to the cooperative, the Manager suggested the government should tax the power-looms and provide more subsidy to the dying handlooms. At present, they get only a yarn subsidy of 10 per cent. A lot of cheaper silk yarn is coming from China which is being used by the powerlooms. Why doesn't the Govt ban import of Chinese yarn, he asked. There may be many other reasons but this certainly is an area that the governments need to look into more seriously.
While walking out of the coop I was only left wondering as to how was Srinivas surviving in Rs 300 a day, including the cost of affording two college going children? Wouldn't his children too be aspiring to be successful entrepreneurs? Don't they feel the urge to talk/gossip freely on mobile phone like other city-bred youngsters? Perhaps they can't afford the mobile bill. But what about their higher education? Wouldn't they also like to study in a trendy private university set up by the likes of Mohandas Pai? Can they ever afford it unless these are subsidised?
And we are still debating the need to shut down the public supported institutes of higher learning like the Jawaharlal Nehru University??