Indian weavers struggling for work as handlooms are replaced by power looms for efficient production.
Indian Textile industry has been one of the most affluent industries and contributes majorly after the Agriculture industry. It is one of the ancient sectors which has grown larger and redefined itself. The handloom sector and power loom sector are the two important areas of the Textile Industry of India that demonstrates the prosperity and diversity of Indian heritage and culture due to its presence in different parts of the country.
The handlooms of India have associated themselves to the excellent artistry work over the centuries. High quality products from ancient times have been marketed all over the world. Technological development and growth in the handloom sector in the last 100 years have been very challenging with the advent of power looms during industrialization in India.
‘Industrialization’ refers to the development or coming up of industries in a country or region on a wide scale. With the emergence of machines, individual labour is reduced or replaced by the mechanized mass production of goods and services. It is more like a replacement of manpower to machine power. Traces of industrialization have been founded in the 18th century Britain. The technological advancement in this sector has dominated the textile industry at large. As India has always been known for excellent craftsmanship in weaving, but with the changing technology and coming of Power looms, it has led to mass production with compromise in quality.
“Handloom is a fabric that is woven on a loom that uses the mechanical energy of the weaver rather than electrical energy” as stated by Tejashree Bhanawala. It is laborious and time taking. Weavers have installed the set up in their households which runs their livelihood. On the other hand, power loom is a type of loom that is powered mechanically with electricity instead of using man power to weave patterns and threads into cloth.
The shift from conventional weaving to new and easy weaving has led to higher production with a larger initial investment. With the oncoming of power looms, stages like shedding and picking are done automatically, high running speed along with good amount of production and large variety of designs are enjoyed. But it has been observed and experienced that the quality has been reduced. Power loom as an alternative has also reduced the wages of weavers due to use of machinery.
The source of livelihood of over 13 million weavers of India – the hand loom industry, was gravely affected with the advent of power looms during industrialization in India. With the positioning of power looms across the country, the hand weavers apart from becoming labourers are also facing difficulties in making the products sustainable and keeping their age old tradition alive.
With the increase in production from power loom, it has killed the handloom for cotton, linen, khadi, silk and other materials also. As the production through it has cascaded from 3,399 million to 5,441 million metres. In result of the advent of industrialization and installation of power looms, handlooms are falling down and weavers are shifting their occupation and are migrating.
Considering cotton, which contributes to 23% of India’s total textiles. As per the current data, total production of cotton has been 36.5 million bales of 170 kgs. Export of cotton has decreased by 27.5% to 5 million bales due to agricultural and natural factors but no exact data has been recorded or found before industrialization. In order to match the domestic demand, import of cotton is estimated at 2.7 million bales in 2018-2019 and earlier it was 1.5 million bales in 2017-2018.
India being the second largest producer of silk, produces 35,261 (in metric tons) of silk out of which US $255.93 million in 2017-2018 and US $ 123.05 million between April- September 2018 has been exported. As per the data of 2016 import of silk has decreased to 27.41 USD million from 97.63 USD million.
Khadi’s production was estimated to grow by 37.1% in the last 4 years due to Modi’s support for khadi. Khadi and Village Industries Commission declared the data of Khadi production as 141.52 million square metres from 103.22 million square metres.
Indian Government’s Initiatives for handloom weavers
Due to technological advancement, handloom has suffered a lot but now because of the Modi’s “Made in India” campaign and the schemes like:
Handlooms Promotion through e-marketing, etc, handlooms are at the stage of revival. Weavers are able to receive the financial help under the schemes that can be easily availed. Also their promotion through digital platforms make them reach to a wider audience in India and other parts of the world where Indian Hand looms have a great demand.
Handlooms and Power Looms together make the Textile Industry of India. Where fast fashion and easy products are demanded, the power loom production and manufacturing steps in but for those who still look into quality and understand the worth and artistry involved in handmade fabrics, know exactly where to go and find it.