Grassroots Reachout & Networking in India on Trade & Economics (GRANITE)
Rajasthan Fourth Outreach Meeting
Sawai Madhopur District, Rajasthan, September 22, 2005
CUTS Centre for Consumer Action, Research & Training (CUTS-CART) convened the fourth Outreach Meeting under the GRANITE project with an active association of Consumer Legal Help Society (CLHS), a local non-governmental organisation (NGO), at the Deep Jyoti Vidyalaya Samiti, Panchayat Samiti (an administrative block in a district) Bonli, district Sawai Madhopur, Rajasthan, on September 22, 2005. The Outreach Meeting primarily focused on the Textile & Handloom Sector.
The participants in the meeting represented the groups of handloom weavers, representatives from local civil society organisations (CSOs), members of self-help groups (SHGs) and community leaders. The total participants were 35 and half of them were women.
The prime objectives of the meeting were:
- to gather existing perceptions at the grassroots with regards to the issues related to agriculture sector in purview of the globalisation and World Trade Organisation (WTO);
- to identify the anti-poor impact of the existing policies; and
- to assemble all the stakeholders to a common platform whereby they could share their present livelihood concerns.
Sawai Madhopur, famous for historical background, ‘Ranthambore Fort’, ‘the Ranthambore National Park and destination for the tourists, is a backward district situated in the Southeastern part of Rajasthan State. The district population mainly consists of backward class communities with the ‘Meena’ (a tribal community) is the dominant community. The leading occupation of livelihood for majority of people is based upon agriculture and livestock. Industrially, the district is not much developed.
According to Rajasthan Human Development Report 2002, Sawai Madhopur ranked ninth in the state, with a total number of 714 villages, 5 blocks, and two towns (class I to IV). The average land holding in 1995-96 was 2.06 hectare and the net sown area (1998-99) is 57.8 percent whereas the gross irrigated area (1998-99) is 33.4 percent. The total employment in farm sector is 75.8 percent and agriculture labour is 8.4 percent. The collective employment of farmers, hunters, fishermen, loggers and related works is 75.6 percent.
Bonli, a block headquarter in Sawai Madhopur district, is known for handloom sector. Apart from the handlooms, Khadi Cooperative Societies are also there, which provide jobs to the handloom weavers that act as the partial livelihood for them. Since a decade, the carpet cottage industry has been also developed in Bonli. Agriculture sector is not so dominant due to low level of ground water.
Highlights of the Discussion
Punyarupa Bhadury of CUTS, Jaipur presented a brief about GRANITE project, its objectives, and above all, the purpose behind organising the Outreach Meetings. Madan Giri of CUTS Centre for Human Development (CUTS-CHD), Chittorgarh and Rajendra Kumar of CUTS, Jaipur explained the issues related to textile & handloom, globalisation and WTO including the changes they perceive in these sectors. Also, they asked the participants whether they are aware of the policies involved in theses sectors.
Voice from the Grassroots
Drupadi, a Woman Handloom Weaver, voiced the following concerns:
- Women have no access to regular work, adequate raw material and market facilities;
- Women groups should be formed;
- Entry of competitive market has closed the door on opportunities in handloom sector; and
- Women are keen to know the modern techniques and their application in handlooms but they do not have an enabling environment in the society.
Dinesh, a Handloom Weaver, shared his concerns in the following words:
- ‘Galicha’ (Carpet) making is developing in this area and these carpets are of export quality. The raw materials are given to the workers who prepare the products but the finishing is carried out at Jaipur.
- Blanket and bed sheet making handlooms are also found here. This work is started for the last four to five years and also getting satisfactory response from the market.
Key Issues Emerged from the Outreach Meeting:
- Lack of satisfactory job/employment opportunities for women in the villages make them sit idly;
- Huge water crisis consumes much of the time of women in fetching or managing water and due to that they are unable to contribute in improving their family’s economic condition;
- Western influence is responsible for changing socio-economic pattern;
- The wages in handloom sector are very low, even lower than Rs 73, the minimum wages declared by the government;
- The Khadi Cooperatives has a monopoly in this region and exploit women by paying only Rs 33 per kg for spinning the cotton by Amber Charkha and Rs 11 per kg for spinning the cotton from ordinary Charkha;
- The number of women spinners was above one hundred about seven to eight years ago, which is declining day by day;
- There is no female member in Khadi Cooperative Committee;
- Women face a major problem in managing the raw material for handloom products and searching suitable market to sell them;
- Outstation workers and laborers, especially from Sikandra and Fatehpur towns, are called for important works in Khadi Cooperatives, which close the doors on job opportunities for localities;
- There is no local training and capacity building programmes for women. If such opportunities are provided locally to the women, they can do better and stand firmly in competition;
- The information dissemination channel on various issues does not function effectively in the area and thus, the local people engaged in handlooms are not benefited;
- WTO has increased the competition tremendously;
- The Reja (rough cloth) work has died almost 15 years ago;
- There is a good opportunity for developing Beedi (tobacco rolled in a tobacco leaf to make a rudimentary cigarette for smoking) making and cottage industry. However, training facilities are not available and those few having this skill do not want to share it with others. Most of them are Muslims;
- The literacy rate is increasing day by day. The number of private schools has also increased after 1984;
- People engaged in handlooms are socially strong but economically very weak;
- The employment has increased but not in proportion to raising livelihood expenses in the face of rapidly increasing population;
- The samajik chetna (social awareness) has enhanced but simultaneously it has also led to a negative development;
- The increase in readymade garments trend has made the local tailors unemployed;
- The Galicha (carpet) cottage industry is in good condition and it has developed since one decade. Village made carpets are of good quality and are exported in bulk quantity. The carpet weavers sell the products to the brokers/agents. About 400 weavers are earning their livelihood from this industry. Also, there is a high number of children working in this industry; and
- Villagers do not get full time work throughout the year. If they want to have Charkha, they will have to deposit security money. Also, hand-run Charkha requires huge amount of physical labour.