New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Economic boom and foreign competition, in particular from China have placed the Indian textile industry: in order to better comprehend the future development of the sector on July 23rd, the People's Vigilance committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), along with other NGO’s and the Asian Human Rights Commission(AHRC),Hong Kong organized a state level consultation entitled “weavers and artisans in era of Globalization”, in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India. The father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi, believed that hand spinning, combined with weaving on hand looms, was the only logical way for the people of India to become self-sufficient Mahatma Gandhi weaving his own clothes in protest of British control of the Indian textile industry, launched his nationalist movement to defy colonialism and also partly as a gesture of self-reliance.
Speaking to AsiaNews, Lenin Raghuvanshi, Head of the Varanasi based PVCHR, and the recipient of the ‘2007 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights’ affirms that the meeting was organised to “highlight the pitiable condition of handloom weavers of Varanasi” Until recently, weaving was the second-most-common occupation in India behind farming. There are over two lakh weavers in and around the holy city of Varanasi. “But less than 55,000 get a job in a year leaving the remaining 1.5 lakh weavers jobless”. “The high unemployment level is worsened by the fact that Almost all weavers are either low caste Hindus or Muslims — the two communities which have been marginalised by the upper caste. Illiteracy is another problem which pushes the weavers to seek help from money lenders and credit-giving gaddidars. Not to forget the evil of government apathy”.
In the last three years, over 50 adults and children from weaving families have starved to death instead of enduring poverty. With each passing day, the skilled hands of weavers are being engaged in other jobs such as driving rickshaw, selling vegetables, laying roads and even begging. Weaver's aren't alone to bear the brunt, the condition of their family is worse. 50 percent of children in weaver families are malnourished, in blatant violation of Supreme Court orders, a number of children can be seen to survive on a mere bowl or two of plain rice and some bread. Some times they get nothing at all. About 70 percent of weavers' children are malnourished. The weavers also cannot afford basic medical care for their children, much less themselves.
India's global integration is devastating this artisan class.-this traditional silk industries are facing problems and challenges thrown by liberalization of trade. Dumping of cheap silk and silk-woven garments from China has further aggravated this problem. Due to this, 70-80 per cent of handlooms have been virtually closed down and the weavers are committing suicide. “India is riding the crest of the economic boom –concludes Raghuvanshi - whilst on the other, millions of craftsmen, manual labourers and rural workers are being left out of the economic boom. Helping those left behind is India's greatest challenge”.