Express News Service

SRIKAKULAM /GUNTUR/CHITTOOR/NELLORE: Due to lack of orders for the past two weeks, thousands of weavers across the state have been rendered jobless. Be it in Ponduru (Srikakulam), Venkatagiri and Potur in Nellore or Mangalagiri in Guntur, the textile sector is facing one of its toughest challenges as the state remains in the 21-day lockdown to bat t l e coronavirus. Ponduru, famous for its khadi products, and its surrounding villages are home to around 1,000 weavers and workers.

With khadi bhandars (shops) in Srikakulam and Visakhapatnam shut, Ponduru khadi society, which employs 800 spinners and 100 weavers, has suffered a loss of Rs 25 lakh since the lockdown began on March 25. The district houses four khadi manufacturing societies: one each at Ponduru and Narasannapeta and the remaining two in Srikakulam.

“We have seven authorised outlets in Srikakulam and Visakhapatnam districts. With them closed, we have suffered a loss of Rs 25 lakh till now.

Summer is the season when khadi is in demand,” G Venkata Ramana, secretary of the Ponduru khadi society, explained.

Handloom and powerloom weavers in Venkatagiri, Patur and Nagari get bulk orders, especially during festivals, as they produce fine handwoven cotton sarees popular across the state. More than 50,000 workers are dependant on the 3,000 looms in Venkatagiri.

They have not been able to get raw materials, which they get from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu after district and state borders were sealed. Even though the power loom weavers have some raw materials left with them, they have not been getting any new orders ever since the restrictions came into place.

“The lockdown has changed our lives completely. If the situation continues and we don’t get any orders, we all will lose our livelihood,” said Pynam Ramanaiah, a weaver.

Before the pandemic hit India, the handloom weavers were able to make 15 to 25 sarees a month and made Rs 450- Rs 550 per piece. “Now we are forced to survive on loans from individuals even to buy essential commodities,” said K Siddaiah, an artisan from Patur.

Weavers in Guntur’s Mangalagiri are demanding that the government announce financial assistance for them as, in addition to the lockdown, they have been facing issues beginning from productivity to marketing.

President of the masterweavers’ association Jonnadula Varaprasada Rao urged the government to announce aid for 1,900 workers of the Mangalagiri looms. Weavers and other workers have had no income since the lockdown began, he added.

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