Why Assam’s women weavers worried about GST act?

As the nation of India is gradually trying to understand how the implementation of GST has affected their lives, many business houses in the country are contemplating how this new unified tax system is likely to impact their monthly and annual turnovers. One of the states that are likely to get most affected by this newly launched GST is Assam. Assam has a long history of handloom and handicraft industry that serves as a means for income for plenty of families. A large percentage of the weavers who work for the Assam handloom industry are women. These women often serve as one of the most famous bread earners for their families, even though they only have very little school education, to begin with, the only thing that they can rely on is their skills as handloom weavers. However, with the implementation of GST, it is going to be difficult for these women to early the livelihood that they once used to.

Assam is an area that is known for its production of Muga, Eri and Pat silk garments. These clothes are known for their creamy texture and look, and women widely wear the sarees that are made from them both in India and abroad. However, most of the families and the women who are responsible for their production live below the poverty line. While it is true that the handloom products produced in Assam contribute in a major way to the GDP of the country, the female workers who toil day and night to provide such handloom fabrics get to see very little of the profits that they deserve. In most of their houses which are in rural areas, there is hardly any electricity or other hints of modern development. Their low income leaves them with very little buying power that would allow them to have surplus money after they have invested in raw materials for the production of the handloom goods.

Women weavers of Assam worried about GST
Women weavers of Assam worried about GST

Before the implementation of GST, there were no taxes associated with the manufacture of the silk fabrics such as Muga and Eri that are so popular in Assam. However, according to the new rules of GST, the producers of such handlooms will have to pay a GST of 5%. GST will naturally increase the prices of the finished goods along with reduced margins for production. GST will not be acceptable by the customers who used to get these products at lower prices before the implementation of GST. Most affected by GST are the poor rural women who produce these handlooms for the national and global markets. The larger brands and corporations will find it easy to adjust to the changes brought by GST. They can even offer their products at reduced rates while still making a profit out of them. However, this will naturally make it a lot difficult for the rural producers of handloom products as they won’t find it easy to secure profits for themselves without increasing the prices of the finished goods.

Currently, there is an increased need for the government to exempt the handloom industry in Assam from paying the GST as it will help to protect the lives and livelihood of the women and families in this part of India who is involved in the production of such handlooms. Many politicians and reformers here strongly feel that the exemption of GST should be active as soon as possible as that would offer some hope for these people who are already living below the poverty line.

Weavers of Nuapatna are basically belongs to Buddhism

Nuapatna is a rich town in Cuttack district in the Indian state of Odisha. Nuapatna is very famous for handloom weaving garments. Khandua Silk Saree and Ikat sarees are the best items of Nuapatna. Weavers of Nuapatna also produce various types of cotton sarees and handloom sarees of Nuapatna are world famous. Now handloom sarees of Nuapatna exports to all over the world through online shopping store.

Weavers of Nuapatna are very much efficient and sincere. They always try to create extraordinary work on their production. Their lifestyles are very much simple and they are all qualified as a weaver. Weavers of Nuapatna are basically belongs in Buddhism and they are connected with the weavers of Sri Lanka. They exchanged each other thoughts in their work and also visit each other countries.

Handloom weavers of Nuapatna
Handloom weavers of Nuapatna

In Nuapatna, you can see number of Buddha temple but Budha Temple of Budhajayantipur is very much famous and main holy place of Nuapatna. Every year number of foreign travellers comes to visit Nuapatna to see natural view and obviously to check handloom garments of Nuapatna.

Where culture meets design: A look at Odisha’s rich handloom heritage, the challenges and future outlook

For a country as diversified as India, it is obvious that each state has its own culture that reflects heavily on the designs and patterns emerging from it. Odisha, is no exception. Its rich cultural diversity, values, motifs and local talents reflects extensively on its popular products in the textile industry. Locals will tell you that Odisha is quickly emerging as the hub for fabrics, apparel designs and handloom.  The handloom sector in Odisha arguably is one of the largest employers in the state. Odiya artisans are known to possess skills and artistry that has been inherited unhampered for generations.

The Odisha government has been an active participant in the efforts to nurture this incredibly high potential cottage industry. With 4 percent of the population of the state dependant on the sector and the demand for products on the rise, the state has a massive responsibility of making the sector lucrative for newcomers while at the same time developing the infrastructure to support the existing talent. According to the Odisha Government’s Handlooms, Textiles and Handicrafts Department there are around 1.19 lakh looms in the state of which 88186 have been brought under the cooperative fold. During 8th & 9th five-year plan the Directorate of Textiles also introduced several schemes to improve the condition of the sector.

The potential

According to the government website, production potential for the various textile products emerging from Odisha is the following:

Type Region Looms Production potential (In lakhs) INR
Silk Tie-dye, Silk and Cotton Bomkai Boudh, Sonepur 6773 4063.8
Khandua Silk Saree Cuttack 2255 1217.7
Cotton tie-dye Saree and Furnishing Bargarh, Sonepur, Bolangir and Nuapada 8045 3816.6
Tasar thana saree and furnishing Bargarh, Jajpur, Balasore, Nuapatna 2424 1163.52
Berhampur Silk Saree Joda Ganjam 609 292.32
Single count fine cotton Saree Jagatsinghpur 2234 804.24
Medium variety cotton Jajpur, Khurda, Bargarh, Bolangir, Ganjam and Nayagarh 5563 2003.47
Course variety cotton Bolangir, Cuttack, Khurda, Kendrapara, Nayagarh, Puri, Nuapara,Kalahandi, Kandhamal, Balasore, Bhadrak & Sambalpur, Sonepur 17220 5166
Nuapatna - Handloom Heritage
Nuapatna – Handloom Heritage

The unorganised sector

While the organised textile manufacturing and handloom sector in Odisha soars to new heights each year, there looms some serious dark clouds over the unorganised segment of the cottage industry. However, we interviewed few handloom owners and found out what they were doing, the challenges they faced and their future outlook about the industry. Here is a brief extract from our travels across the state:

Interview 1

Name: Madan Mohan Patra,

Age: 70

Profession: Weaver, designer, owner

Products: Cotton and Silk Saree

Speciality: Using skin friendly dyes and fabrics

Madan Mohan Patra, in spite of his age, has a modern approach in his production.  He owns a small loom where he produces cotton and silk sarees. His biggest interest is studying modern designs and he has been introducing constant changes to his products to keep up with the current styles. He also ensures that he shares his insights with his group weavers and is therefore an influential weaver in his locality.

He explains that the biggest challenge for his weavers is the lack of infrastructure to increase production. A larger space to work would translate into more innovation higher production. The working conditions have a great scope for improvement in terms of hygiene and safety. Mr Patra also ads that the nature of their work forces weavers to sit in one place for long hours. This causes health problems including eye disorders. He explains that the process of mixing acid with colours during the colouring stage is also a dangerous process. However with exposure to modern ideas, the weavers have been able to ensure better safety with the help of gloves and masks now available locally. Among other challenges, Mr Patra says that the rising price of silk is making it difficult for the weavers to afford the material.

In terms of future outlook, Mr Patra feels that there needs to be more support to the small scale handloom sector from the government, the local communities and also the master weavers.


Interview 2

Name: Somnath Patra

Age: 40

Profession: Designer and Master Weaver

Somnath is a popular local designer and master weaver in Odisha who has worked with both unorganised and organised players in the textile sector. His work also involves selling in bulk, sarees that he procures from local weavers. He explains that one of the biggest challenges in the small scale sector in Odisha is the lack of infrastructure for quality machine printing. He also says that filing patents has to be made more accessible for the local weavers and designers. He adds that the day the village weaver can file for patents is when the weaving and handloom sector in Odisha will truly take off. He also says that it is difficult to raise the price of the products though the price of raw materials has been constantly increasing

While business is not the same all year round, festivals such as Durga Puja, Sabitri and Raja festivals spell good sales for the weavers and handloom owners, according to Somnath.

Industry outlook

Digging deeper into the handloom sector in the state, we find a very contrasting picture where on one hand, traditional handloom owners want to adopt to modern techniques and infrastructure while globally there remains a constant demand for the traditional patterns and authentic embroideries. Interestingly, some of the weavers we interviewed did not want their next generation to pursue the business and instead wanted them to be doctors and engineers.

With the government taking steps to bring in more and more players into the tax net and thereby pulling them into the organised sector, it will ideally require a mix of nurturing the traditions and shaping them for the future. There is not a bleak outlook in the industry but when one compares it to traditional small scale industries of European countries or even some parts of Western India, we find ourselves wondering whether we are doing justice, as a nation, to the massive talent of Odiya weavers.

Published in the Apparel Magazine (CMAI)

Indian Handloom Weavers

Weaving is an antique art of production textile and other fabrics and the Indians have been proficient of weaving since the earliest era. Weaving is the method of making cloth, rugs, blankets and other products by crossing two sets of strands over and under each other. Weaving in Indian villages has been a relaxation for numerous centuries now. Weaving has also become a foremost industry in the current age. Weaving in Indian villages is done using yarns spun from normal fibers like cotton, silk and wool and also using the artificial fibers like nylon and Orlon.

Weavers of India
Weavers of India

The Indian hand woven fabrics have been renowned all over the world since era immemorial. The olden Indian cotton-fabric Muslin was believed one of the most exclusive makings of Indian weavers. India was also one of the main exporters of textiles to most divisions of the civilised world in the olden period. However, in modern India, weaving is not prejudiced to cloth and textile goods. It plays an significant part in produce of screens, metal fences and rubber tire string.

Indian handloom products specially handloom sarees are very famous in all over the world. User buys handloom sarees, handloom cloths etc. using online shopping from every corners of the World.