Charaka Society says it has written to Karnataka CM BS Yediyurappa asking for the Rs 97 lakh promised by successive state governments for various joint projects.

A woman involved in weaving work at Charaka Society, Heggodu, Karnataka
news Handloom Thursday, September 03, 2020 - 15:22

The 25-year-old Charaka Society, which supports hundreds of handloom weavers in Heggodu village of Karnataka's Shivamogga district, was declared insolvent on August 28, bringing its activities to a halt. Charaka cited the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic for the development.   

"Due to the market crisis created by COVID-19, cash inflows stopped, our bank account was choked, so we were declared as insolvent on August 28. Charaka stopped weaving-related activities as we cannot offer to produce more handloom products,” the Charaka Women’s Multipurpose Industrial Co-operative Society said in a statement.

Charaka's godown is now filled with more than 87,000 metres of naturally-dyed handloom fabric and Rs 16 lakh worth of garments.

In the past few months, Charaka said that 800 weavers and artisans in six districts in Karnataka are dependent on them and they have been able to help 250 workers in finding work in Shivamogga district. "We are making all efforts to continue supporting 250 rural poor by providing mud work, construction, lake rejuvenation and folk painting work in these hard times," Charaka's statement added.  

The Charaka Women’s Multipurpose Industrial Co-operative Society was started in 1994 by theatre personality Prasanna Heggodu, with the aim of creating environment-friendly local employment. Prasanna, who at the time was a dramatist and activist, was teaching at Ninaasam, a theatre school in Heggodu set up by Magsaysay awardee KV Subbanna.

The collective has since expanded from working out of a small shelter in Heggodu to housing a production facility employing 700 people, most of whom are women. Charaka produced over 30,000 metres of naturally-dyed handloom fabric every month before the pandemic hit this year. 

Charaka has written two letters — on August 20 and August 31 — to Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa requesting payment for joint projects. 

“We are receiving an outpouring of support from people who are willing to buy our fabric. But we want the state government to pay the amount which is due to the Charaka Society for various projects undertaken over the last 12 years," said Abhilash CA of the Grama Seva Sangha, an organisation affiliated to Charaka. He says that the amount due to the Charaka Society is close to Rs 97 lakh and that the funds for many projects undertaken was held up in district textile boards.

Abhilash adds that Charaka took up several government projects but except for two projects funded by the central government, they have not been paid for projects sanctioned by successive governments in the state.

Charaka has stopped its handloom weaving activities due to a lack of demand in the last few months. The Society says it supports weavers in northern Karnataka and others in Shivamogga and Chamarajanagara. Around 400 outsourced weavers in the districts of Bagalkot, Yadgir, Bijapur, Gadag and Koppal, as well as 150 weavers in Shivamogga and Chamarajanagar have stopped work, the society said.  

A group of people, led by Charaka's founder Prasanna Heggodu, took up lake rejuvenation work at the Virupaksha lake near the Charaka Ashram campus. The work was done by members of Charaka as an alternative to weaving.

Apart from producing handloom goods, Charaka also has a distribution network called the Desi Trust, which has shops in various parts of Karnataka, including in Bengaluru. It has been reporting profits for years including in 2019-20.

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