With sales fallings, Ilkal saree weavers struggle for profit

Arts & Culture Capstone Ilkal Taluk

Government schemes are not benefiting the weavers due to lack of awareness among them.

The Ilkal Saree weavers in Bagalkot district complain that the sale of the Ilkal sarees has gone down drastically which lead them to face loss and loan problems. Welfare policies provided by the government are away from their reach.

Ilkal town in Bagalkot district is known for its famous traditional Ilkal sarees for centuries and continues to attract saree lovers. Ilkal saree is also a GI (Geographical Indication) protected craft of India. Artisans who have GI tag for the Ilkal saree became scanty struggling to make a living now.

Ningappa Nashatti, senior handloom weaver who has been in this field for the past 40 years, said the business is not the same that they had a decade earlier. “It takes 4 days to complete a saree for which we get a measly profit of Rs.200 to Rs.300. For a month, 20 to 40 sarees can be sold. The income from the business is insufficient to even run the family. The marketing for the saree is very poor. We are not getting any subsidies from the government too.”

Everyone in Padmavati Kenchi’s family is doing the weaving. She learned the skills when she was very young and helped her parents in the business throughout. Padmavati’s family got Mudra loan from the government. “Along with repaying the loan, we have to pay GST as well. Despite getting fewer wages and sustaining a living, we have to make money for these too. It is so difficult for us to get through the struggles.”

According to the Third All India Handloom Census (2009–10), the number of handloom weavers has plummeted. The record shows that the number of households engaged in handloom weaving had decreased by three lakhs. It was observed that the young people from the community are not willing to continue what their parents did for a living.

Another problem the weavers face is the rising cost of raw materials including silk and cotton which has doubled in recent years.

Narayan PK, the raw material distributor said, “Cotton and viscose raw materials are coming from Maharastra and Resham from Bengaluru. We are selling the raw material according to the quality. If the quality is high, we sell it for Rs.6000 at the maximum. Now the number of distributors who supply raw materials have increased rapidly. So our business is also falling flat with fewer customers approaching.” 

For the overall development of handloom industry/sector and the welfare of handloom weavers, the Government of India introduced 6 policies including Handloom Weavers’ Comprehensive Welfare Scheme, National Handloom Development Programme (NHDP), Weaver MUDRA Scheme, Hathkargha Samvardhan Sahayata, Comprehensive Handloom Cluster Development Scheme and Yarn Supply Scheme. But the Ilkal saree weavers are not sensitized to apply for the schemes. The Third All India Handloom Census report also points out that more than 65% of handloom weavers are unaware of the welfare schemes.

Shrikant Gulad, Union Secretary of Samruddhi Women Handloom Weavers Co-operative said, “Handloom weavers do not have proper marketing. Subsidies provided by the government to the handloom weavers haven’t reached them. After coming under our union, we are providing wages properly.”

PN Arashanagi, Karnataka Handloom Development Corporation Assistant, Ilkal, said, “During festival seasons we are providing Rs.5000 to the weaver’s families. We are providing subsidies too.”

Manju Cherian, Professor at JD Institute of Fashion Designing, Kochi said, “Ilkal sarees are a work of art and it involves a lengthy process at a high cost. But customers neglect to buy this as it is just art silk. The brand value is lower compared to pure silk.”

She opined that the government handloom policies are ineffective for the weavers due to the intervention of third parties in it. “The third parties decide what should be given to the weaver. For a costly saree, the weaver gets a cheaper price and the third party take all the benefits.”

The production of Ilkal saree began in the 8th century during Chalukya dynasty. Ilkal sarees gained fame as they are hand-woven. A decade ago, more than 20,000 families were weaving Ilkal sarees. However, in recent years the numbers have reduced to 5,000.


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