Grassroots Reachout & Networking in India on Trade & Economics (GRANITE)
Rajasthan Seventh Outreach Meeting
Barmer District, Rajasthan, August 27, 2006
CUTS Centre for Consumer Action, Research & Training (CUTS CART) convened the Seventh Outreach Meeting under the GRANITE project with an active association of Dhara Sansthan, Society for Development Health Hygiene and Rural Action a local non-governmental organisation (NGO), at Barmer district, Rajasthan, on August 27, 2006. 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 organisation (CSOs), members of self-help groups (SHGs) and community leaders. The total participants were 40 and half of them were women those who are mainly related with handloom sector.
The prime objectives of the meeting were:
- to gather existing perceptions at the grassroots with regards to the issues related to handloom & handicraft 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.
Barmer has a total area of 28387 km with 3 blocks and a population of nearly 19,63,758. Its rural and urban population is 18,18,517 and 1,45,241 respectively. Barmer district is part of the Great Indian Desert or Thar desert. Like all other districts in the desert region, Barmer is known for its folk music and dance. The Bhopas (priest singers) are found in Barmer, who compose music in honour of the deities of the region and its war heroes.
Highlights of the Discussion
Anutosh Biswas of CUTS, Jaipur presented a brief outline of GRANITE project, its objectives, and above all, the purpose behind organising the Outreach Meetings. Madan Giri Goswami of CUTS Centre for Human Development (CUTS CHD), Chittorgarh explained the issues related to textile & handloom, globalisation and the WTO, including the changes they perceive in these sectors. Also, he asked the participants whether they are aware of the policies involved in these sectors.
Voice from the Grassroots
Mohan Ram, a Weaver, shared the following concerns:
- Unawareness of WTO, Agreement on Textiles & Clothing (TC) and trade related issues at national as well as international levels.
- Inadequate credit facilities
- Not aware of any policy of the government, which has been formulated to ensure avavibility of leather and other raw materials at subsidised price.
- Though the government has provided machines, but not made any suitable arrangements for sufficient raw material.
Tulsi Deepa, a Weaver, voiced his concern thus:
- Lack of training and capacity building programmes.
- The loan systems are very complicated and are very discouraging for the weavers.
- Banking institutions do not support in opening bank accounts for SHGs. The level of literacy is also very low.
- The cooperative societies are also very corrupt.
Nema Ram, a Weaver, informed the participants thus:
- Due to lack of adequate information, weavers are not able to access an appropriate market and get satisfactory return of their product. They are also completely unaware of the changes taking place in the national and international market. Now, the handlooms have not much strength to survive.
- Lack of leadership among the farmers.
- Lack of credit facilities for the handloom weavers.
Ramesh, a Weaver, voiced the following concerns:
- Insufficient wages and low prices received by the weavers.
- Too much dependence on the moneylenders led to huge exploitation.
Key Issues Emerged from the Discussion:
- Trade union movement has weakened in the handloom sector;
- Inefficient labour laws push workers to suffer due to inadequate wages and long working hours;
- Updation of technical skills required;
- Introduction of improved technology;
- Increase in unemployment due to globalisation;
- Non existence of appropriate textile policy;
- Inadequate inputs available at high costs in the handloom sector;
- Increase in the competition and inability of handloom sector to face it;
- Inadequate poor returns in the textile sector;
Lack of marketing facilities;
- Middlemen are playing highhandedness in trading of the textile produce;
- Lack of assistance from the panchayat;
- Inadequate credit facilities; and
- Insufficient wages available in the handloom sector.