To highlight plight of handloom weavers, NGO sells products on Bengaluru streets

Models posed wearing handwoven clothes while volunteers requested passers-by to buy handloom fabric made by weavers from north Karnataka.
To highlight plight of handloom weavers, NGO sells products on Bengaluru streets
To highlight plight of handloom weavers, NGO sells products on Bengaluru streets
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An unusual sight unfolded on Bengaluru’s Brigade Road on Tuesday evening when a group of people attempted to revive a traditional enterprise – handloom.

A group of volunteers from Grama Seva Sangha were seen displaying handmade fabric made by weavers from north Karnataka and requesting passers-by at the busy junction to buy them.

The effort was part of an initiative spearheaded by theatre personality and activist Prasanna, and volunteers of Grama Seva Sangha, a network of constructive organisations which has been involved in efforts to promote hand-made goods and its makers for over a year.

Talking to TNM, Prasanna reveals that the initiative was launched to call attention to the dwindling number of weavers in the state.

“The number of weavers under the Karnataka Handloom Development Corporation (KHDC) has come down from 45,000 to 6,000. We want the weavers in the state to run their industry independently along the lines of Amul,” he says, speaking on the sidelines of the event.

Prasanna claims that most weavers in the state are based in the northern districts of Dharwad, Koppal, Yadgir and Gadag districts.

“We hear the CM is worried about the development of north Karnataka. He can help the weavers in the region by supporting handwoven fabric. We will have a prosperous and united Karnataka only if the farmers and the artisans are happy,” he adds.

The event was held on National Handloom Day to highlight the plight of weavers in the state. Grama Seva Sangh is asking the state government to take away control from the KHDC and help weavers run their industry independently.

“Even though it is National Handloom Day, we cannot celebrate it today. We are requesting the state government to give control to the weavers’ association that would happily run the industry. The government can monitor and help during the transition process for one or two years,” says Abhilash CA, convenor of Grama Seva Sangha.

The group has also written a letter to CM Kumaraswamy requesting him to look into the issue and take action.

Prasanna is no stranger to the cause of the handloom sector. Three years ago, he led a protest in the textile hub of Gajendragad in Gadag district of Karnataka demanding facilities and support for the handloom sector as well as against the dilution of the Handloom Reservation Act.

Last year, he led a padayatra from Junjappanagudde in Sira Taluk of Tumakuru district to Arsikere in Hassan district to spread awareness about the impact of GST on businesses in rural areas.

Earlier this year, he embarked on another arduous padayatra, in which he walked 246 km in 16 days along with volunteers of Grama Seva Sangha, demanding better prices for handmade goods. 

Prasanna’s appeal to help sustain handloom weavers in the state was echoed by Chiranjivi Singh, an ex-IAS officer and ambassador to UNESCO, and Chandra Singh, an artist and handicraft activist. The volunteers were also joined by models who posed on the street wearing handwoven clothes.

“The models were sent by designer and stylist Prakash Bidapa. Like him, many friends from the handloom fraternity are part of the initiative and want the industry to be strengthened,” adds Abhilash. 

The volunteers will now continue to hold similar gatherings in other parts of the city starting with an event in Jayanagar on Wednesday.

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