#WearHandloom ASU Family – an experiment done with the Pochampally weavers
In 2002, the then CM after interacting with the weavers in Pochampally, left with tears in his eyes. The weavers said that they never stopped crying after that day. Up until 2002, they had a weavers’ society which was under APCO, a government body, that would buy the sarees from the weavers and then sell it in the market. But in 2002, when governments changed, the policies also changed and the rest is history. So the tears started in 2002 and haven’t stopped since.
Fast forward to 2011
Mallesham Chintakandi, the rural innovator, who invented the ASU machine and winner of various awards and accolades (all of which are collecting dust under the TV cabin), along with a small team worked on a project to put in a process to help the weavers monthly income. The team included a retired brigadier, 26 weavers, Mallesham and me, with support of many friends. The project had 3 stages
- Reduce the input cost by procuring good quality silk from the wholesale dealers in Karnataka and offer it as a loan to the weavers
- Provide ASU machines to the weavers – one machine for 4 weavers to share. This machine will reduce the labor and give more time for the weavers to do other activities such as design, color, dyeing etc. other ways to increase the income
- Final stage was to connect the weavers to the market directly eliminating the middle men
A year later when everything came together, the process was put in place. Stage 1 and 2 were easy to execute. Stage 3 was a little bit more involved but we managed to sell the sarees directly to the customers and helped maximize the profits.
The next logical step in 2013
Fortunately this process was verifiied and acknowledged by the commissioner for sericulture. She was very impressed by the ASU machine and didn’t hesitate to subsidize under the handloom act. This meant the ASU machine was available at 25% of the cost to the weavers with the remaining 75% covered by the govt.
This was in effect for about a year.
Then comes 2014 when the state split
- Obviously new state meant new everything and the ASU machine was no longer subsidized.
Between 2014 and 2016 there were many efforts at individual level to connect the weavers to the customers directly with some decent success but more importantly taught us many things.
2016 also saw some very creative designs and innovations by the weavers making Pochampalli sarees sought after yet again.
Now in 2017
The handloom minister gave a call to wear handloom causing the hashtag #WearHandloom on social media. The point of all this brief rundown of history, i really hope the govt. and especially the handloom minister does more than trending the hashtag.
What the weavers really want?
Based on the conversations with the weavers and from the 4 year project that was done
- Provide better quality silk at reasonable and predictable prices
- Subsidize ASU machines so the weavers can use them in their day to day lives giving them break from their physical labor
- Provide better ways for the weavers to reach the customer directly
- There are many solutions (including technology based) to help with this
The weavers have made requests to the collector, to the handloom departments but so far no response. Hence this request, if you know anyone in the govt., please take this request to have the weavers meet the minister so they can make a case on how to make weavers a viable profession.
- supportpochampallyweavers.org (website not working)