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Coronavirus impact: Saree makers in West Bengal rue loss of earnings, fear survival

The sales of handloom tant sarees, known worldwide for its quality of thread and weaving, have come to a halt due to suspension of production amid coronavirus outbreak

Manogya Loiwal | May 18, 2020 | Updated 16:18 IST
Coronavirus impact: Saree makers in West Bengal rue loss of earnings, fear survival
Special tant sarees are produced in bulk in West Bengal

Coronavirus pandemic has severely affected exports of cotton yarn, fibres and garments in West Bengal. At the same time handloom weavers and artisans have been hit hard by slump in sales due to lockdown restrictions. Weavers and craftsmen are facing wage loss as their businesses, which depend on retail stores for their sales, have come to a standstill.

The sales of handloom tant, cotton and silk sarees of West Bengal, which are a source of income for local weavers and artisans, have come to a halt due to suspension of production amid coronavirus outbreak. Special tant sarees, known worldwide for its quality of thread and weaving, are produced in bulk in this region.

Samar Ghosh (62), a local artisan, has been making handloom sarees for more than two decades but never in his life has he spent months sitting idle. He said that his per day income was around Rs 500, but now he is completely dependent on the government for food supply. A family of six is now finding it difficult to fend for themselves.

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Like Samar, many artisans have been forced to sit idle for nearly two months as their shops remained closed. They are unable to sell their stock of sarees due to lockdown restrictions. The crisis is so huge that they do not see light of day till Durga Puja later this year which is also an important shopping season.

Another artisan, Bimal Debnath explained, "The condition is very bad. Due to novel coronavirus spread, neither are we able to sell our stock, nor  are we getting the thread to weave any. We are in such condition that we might die due to hunger. We are not getting help from anywhere. From a local haat to Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, everywhere we used to do our business, but now everything is closed."

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There are around 2,000 handlooms and 40,000 powerlooms in Fulia and Shantipur area of Nadia district of West Bengal. A single power loom can weave up to seven sarees a day, while a handloom has the upper limit of two per day.

There are more than 2 lakh people who are engaged in the handloom work at various levels with a production worth more than Rs 2 crore per month. Those engaged with the business earn between Rs 500 to Rs 600 per day, while it is the merchants who make money from international orders.

These artisans lack savings or have exhausted what they had in the past two months.

Kartik Saha, a leading merchant, said, "Due to coronavirus, all the sarees are being kept in store now. We used to send our stocks to Delhi, Mumbai and other states. But, now we can't. Everything is over in our life. I don't know what we will do now."

(Input credit: Biswajit Banerjee in Nadia)

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