Andhra Pradesh Third Outreach Meeting
Epurupalem (Chirala, Prakasam district), Andhra Pradesh, November 5, 2005
Consumer Guidance Society (CGS), Hyderabad – GRANITE project partner for Andhra Pradesh – in collaboration with Centre for Handloom Information and Policy Advocacy (CHIP), Chirala, Andhra Pradesh, organised an outreach meeting on November 5, 2005, with handloom weavers at Epurupalem, Chirala, Prakasam district, Andhra Pradesh. Handloom weavers from Epurupalem, Thotavaripalem and Chenethanagar participated in this meeting.
The objective of the meeting was to bring weavers to a common platform, to discuss the opportunities and challenges in the era of World Trade Organisation (WTO)-induced free textile trade and to share and learn information and opinions with reference to their livelihood.
Methodology of the Outreach Meeting
- Mobilisation by staff of CHIP and other local associations.
- Distribution of a two-page pamphlet in the target villages, prior to the meeting.
- Announcement through microphone mounted on a rickshaw.
- Oral presentations in the meeting.
- Local language was the basic form of communication.
- Partnership with organisation with credibility among weavers.
- Street play by CHIP staff on Government policies, committees on handloom sector vis-à-vis weavers’ plight.
- Proper moderation of the discussion.
The meeting began with the inaugural remarks by P Suresh from CHIP and was subsequently addressed by D Narasimha Reddy, Project Coordinator; Jwala Narasimham, Andhra Pradesh Chenetha Karmika Sangham; Kornepati Balasubramanyam, President, Rastra Chenetha Karmika Samakhya; K Rama Rao, Jana Vignana Vedika; Kondiah, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) leader; and Diwakar Babu, Nodal Person.
Before the meeting started, staff of CHIP staged a street play depicting the linkage between government policies and the present plight of the weavers who are driven to commit suicides. The play sent a message to the weavers to learn and lobby for their rights and growth.
Background Information on the People
Most of the poor weavers of Chirala, who work under working sheds, are migrants. Before coming to Chirala about 10-15 years back laden with debt and destitute, they were independent weavers with their own production system. Now, they work with the entire family engaged in each work shed.
Living and working conditions are abysmal and their wages are improper. In Chirala too, these migrant workers are in huge debt and their income is spent on paying back rent, loans, interests, damages, and loom usage etc.
While the production value of these work sheds per year reaches Rs 25 crore, the wages they get does not go beyond 3 percent of this value. There is no implementation of minimum wages act, nor any labour provisions assured by the Rule of Law.
In the last few years, Government has been encouraging such work sheds in the name of competition and growth amidst free global trade.
CHIP did an extensive primary survey of their conditions, which was published as a report. This report received extensive response from the weavers and has been used ever since by the weavers for reference.
Highlights of the Discussions
Jwala Narasimham, Andhra Pradesh Chenetha Karmika Sangham
- Handloom weavers are not able to get loans through institutional structures. As a result, they are forced to depend on private moneylenders who are fleecing them, and exploiting their families, especially women.
- Interest rate is as high as Rs10 per week; any default attracts Rs10 as penalty per day.
- Government has become a silent spectator by not doing anything for the welfare of these weavers.
- Artisan credit scheme of the governments had not reached these weavers.
D Narasimha Reddy, Project Coordinator
- Different government committees and their reports have become the bane rather than boon for handloom sector.
- The mindset of policy makers on handloom sector is negative because of competitive lobbying by other sub-sectors of textile sector, and due to inadequate understanding of the handloom sector.
- While free global textile trade offers opportunities for handloom sector, government policies, which discriminate against handloom sector, have proved to be detrimental.
- Government policies have been intended to decrease budget allocations for handloom sector, dilution of various acts, which ensure market and raw material access to handloom weavers, including general neglect.
- Modernisation is being pursued without any thought about the ramifications of such policies on the livelihoods of handloom weavers.
- Handloom sector requires reforms to transform itself, and the support of government to increase its production capacity.
Kornepati Balasubramanyam, President, Rastra Chenetha Karmika Samakhya
- Closure of more than 12 cooperative spinning mills has been a big blow to the weavers.
- Weavers are unable to get hank yarn at affordable prices and at suitable places.
- Weavers need to come together to fight for their rights.
- One Minister said the handloom sector would close by 2006. While this does not seem in the offing, the Minister himself is not seen.
K Rama Rao, Jana Vignana Vedika
- After 1995, education has become expensive due to privatisation. Children of weavers are unable to get quality education because they are not in a position to afford huge school fees. Thus, privatisation of primary education needs to be controlled.
Kondiah, CITU leader
- WTO structure is inherently balanced against the interests of developing countries.
- Awareness on WTO aspects among the people has to increase.
- Handloom weavers plight has aggravated during the last few years.
Diwakar Babu, General Secretary, Consumer Guidance Society
Handloom weavers should lobby, in unison, for better policies in order to stay in competition and it is feasible only with concerted and coordinated efforts of the unified movement of handloom workers backed by necessary data and research.
- They should utilise the information services of organisations like CHIP to increase their sectoral knowledge and work for suitable budget allocations from the government.
Andagonda Narayana, a ShedWeaver
We have learned a lot through this interaction.
Gopichand, a Shed Weaver
We are always worried about our livelihood. At least now, we are able to understand the factors, which have been causing these problems to our livelihood.
Akkala Koteshwara Rao, a Weaver
Weavers require implementation of minimum wages and provision for housing.
- Awareness campaigns on minimum wages and housing needs to be taken up.