The saree distribution drive for the Bathukamma festival saw several brawls over who would get the free clothes.

Ugly fight breaks out over free sarees in Telangana Women tear each others hair out in queueScreenshot: Twitter
news Public Brawl Monday, September 18, 2017 - 19:48

A group of women screaming at each other and coming to blows, pushing, pulling, and slapping each other. This was the scene at a PDS centre in Telangana’s Saidabad, where free sarees were being distributed by the state government for the Bathukamma festival.

The Telangana government announced free sarees for women below the poverty line, as part of a scheme to promote handlooms in the state. With a budget of Rs 200 crore, the Chief Minister had earlier said that this scheme was introduced to provide employment to weavers in the handloom industry as well as to make poor women happy.

However, the scheme backfired and how.

The shocking videos of the mass brawl that broke out on Monday were put out on Twitter by journalist TS Sudhir. While the exact reason for the brawl is still unknown, it is believed that there was a limited number of sarees available, and the women were afraid that they will not get their hands on one.

In other places in the state, the populist scheme also faced protests from women who alleged that the quality of the sarees was bad.

In a protest in Jagtial district, nearly 200 km away from Hyderabad, women took to the streets, burned the sarees and played Bathukamma.

Bathukamma is a floral festival celebrated by women in Telangana, where they sing songs by clapping hands surrounding the decorated flowers. On Monday, women sang to mock the poor quality of the sarees.

Similar protests were reported at Bhongir, Nalgonda as well.

The protesters cried foul that the sarees given were not Gadwal sarees, as promised to them, and suspected a scam. They claimed that these sarees were not even worth Rs 100.

Opposition leaders also slammed the government for the poor quality of sarees that were distributed. “Cheap quality sarees are being distributed to poor women of Telangana and commissions are given to contractors. The government has hurt the self respect of the people of Telangana by doing this,” Kishan Reddy, a senior BJP leader told NTV Telugu. “Now across state women are voluntarily rebelling against the TRS government. No one has asked them for sarees. If they wanted to give, they should have given quality clothes. Whatever they've  distributed is not even worth their daily wage,” he alleged. “This is not fair, the government will have to pay for this humiliation,” he added.

Announcing the scheme, Chief Minister KCR had earlier said, “The plight of workers dependent on handloom and power loom sectors is pathetic. Due to lack of work, some workers have even committed suicide. Hence we are purchasing sarees from them, as it would provide employment to the workers.

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