Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Vertical portal to promote handloom textile industry

Coimbatore: In order to act as a link between weaver artisans and other stakeholders and promote the handloom textile industry, a vertical portal has started operating from Secunderabad in Andhra Pradesh.

The portal ‘’ would link weaver artisans, with wholesalers, master weavers, retailers and importers and exporters in the industry, D G Ladha, CEO, ‘’, told reporters here on 29 August.

As the traditional handloom segment is almost saturated and weavers are facing a hard time, the portal would provide necessary support in areas like the latest trends, colours, fashion, branding, documentation and logistics to facilitate and improve Indian handloom industry, Ladha said.

Handloom allows customization to the maximum extent and is unique because what was produced at Kancheepuram cannot be produced at Elampalli or Arni, each a weaving centre, with its speciality. The industry has to adopt new technology and Branding, he said.

Due to lack of proper information on real manufacturing centres and master weavers, overseas bulk buyers have not paid proper attention to these. Factors like required facilities, finance, power supply, logistics and direction were the major issues related to the growth of the industry, he said.

The portal would be an E-express highway catering to the needs of weavers and master weavers,linking them to all buyers and suppliers of different raw materials, so that middlemen could be eliminated, Ladha claimed.

India : Workshed scheme for khadi weavers & artisans

August 25, 2007

The Government has proposed the formulation of a new welfare scheme for the weavers of the khadi sector, namely, “Workshed Scheme for Khadi Weavers and Artisans”.

The scheme is in the conceptual stage and drawn on the lines of one under implementation in the Ministry of Textiles for the benefit of handloom weavers.

The Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises has been implementing a welfare scheme for the artisans of the khadi sector, including khadi weavers, namely, “Khadi Karigar Janashree Bima Yojana” with effect from 2003-04.

This information was given by the Minister of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises, Shri Mahabir Prasad in a written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha.

Press Information Bureau Government of India

India : Govt launches handloom cluster development scheme

August 16, 2007

The Minister of State for Textiles, Shri E.V.K.S. Elangovan, informed the Lok Sabha in a written reply to a question by Shri G. Karunakara Reddy that the Government has launched a new scheme called “Integrated Handloom Cluster Development Scheme” in the year 2005-06 for holistic and integrated development of 20 handloom clusters in a timeframe of four years at a total cost not exceeding Rs. 2 crore per cluster.

These clusters are spread in 12 States, including the State of Karnataka each covering about 5000 handlooms. This cluster approach will not replace the cooperative approach for the development of handloom sector, the Minister said.

The Minister further informed the House that the Integrated Handloom Cluster Development Scheme will be replaced by the proposed new “Integrated Handloom Development Scheme (IHDS)”, which has been formulated by merging the components, with or without modifications of the Deen Dayal Hathkargha Protsahan Yojana, Integrated Handloom Cluster Development Scheme, Integrated Handloom Training Project and Workshed-cum-Housing Scheme implemented during the Tenth Five Year Plan. Shri Elangovan further stated that in the State of Karnataka, Gadag is one of the 20 handloom clusters where the cluster development programme is under implementation.

Additional five handloom clusters i.e. (i) Mahalingapur – Bagalkot District; (ii) Challoakere Town -- Chitradurga District; (iii) Kollegal – Chamarajnagar District; (iv) Thimmasandara – Kolar District and (v) Mulakalamuru – Chitradurga District have been selected in the State of Karnataka and their diagnostic study has been conducted. The proposed new Scheme will cover the weavers both in and outside the cooperative fold.

Press Information Bureau Government of India

Gandhi's hand looms over India's surging economy

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Fri Aug 10, 2007 2:45AM EDT

By Alistair Scrutton

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - When Tata Steel bought an Anglo-Dutch competitor this year for $12 billion, the newspaper headline "Empire Strikes Back" symbolized how far India's economy had come in the 60 years since independence.

The aggressive foreign grab by a private Indian firm was a far cry from the image of a simple village handloom used by Mahatma Gandhi in India's fight against British imperialism and his campaign for economic self-sufficiency, or "Swadeshi".

Then, Indians felt self-rule was about economic survival as British competition sucked the life out of local industries. Life expectancy was around 30 years, famine an ever-present threat.

Now, India's capitalist kingpins are on a global buying spree, from snapping up Scottish whisky distillers to eyeing the purchase from Ford of the luxury Jaguar car brand.

Westerners fret about losing their jobs to India's cheap, educated professionals.

"These 60 years have been a trying period," said T.K. Bhaumik, chief economist at Reliance Industries Ltd., India's most valuable company.

"We have faced several calamities but we have created a middle class, a new entrepreneurial class and now young Indians are managing global firms."

But, despite the successes, the shadow of independence -- whether bucolic Swadeshi or the later Soviet-inspired socialist protectionism of India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru -- still hovers over "shining" India.

India's policy-makers, many born before 1947 and imbued with the ideals of the founding fathers, have been cautious about opening up the economy further, slow to build on market reforms that began in 1991.

For critics, they are still too often distrustful of foreign investment and continue to feed off a corrupt government apparatus that twisted the ideals of Nehru's state socialism and threatens modernizing reforms.

"Here, it is fashionable to be anti-reform," said Surjit Bhalla, head of Oxus Research and Investments.

India's fragile coalitions, often backed by powerful regional and caste-based parties, are often unable to push through big-bang reforms for fear of losing mass support.


For sure, foreign investors face challenges.

Take two global giants, the U.S. retailer Wal-Mart and British-based telecoms player Vodafone.

India's $350 billion retail sector is dominated by small neighborhood stores, and the ruling Congress party, which heads a fractious centre-left coalition, is grappling with how to ease the entry of corporates without throwing millions out of work.

Wal-Mart, which has signed a wholesale deal with India's Bharti Enterprises, has been caught in the middle and has faced street protests.

Vodafone Chief Executive Arun Sarin said this year his hopes that India's bureaucracy had changed were shaken by moves to derail his company's $11 billion takeover of telecoms firm Hutchison Essar.

"The billionaire losers' club was trying to unwind the deal," he said. "What I didn't count on was that the bureaucracy would kick in with this kind of evil spirit from our competitors who had lost."

Sarin later said his remarks were aimed at "vested interests" who had tried to scupper the deal.

There is no doubting the successes of independence. According to one estimate, India has pulled a population equivalent to that of Western Europe out of poverty since 1947.

It now exports food, doctors and vaccines to the West.

Decades of "Hindu rates" of low single-digit growth have given way to record economic expansion. India's 50 million-strong middle class could expand ten-fold by 2025, consultancy firm McKinsey says.

"There were two spurts of reforms -- one from 1991-1993 and another from 1998 to 2004," said Arun Shourie, a former minister in a coalition led by Hindu nationalists, which was voted out in 2004 after running a stridently pro-reform campaign.

"These two reform periods created enough elbow room for the private enterprises and middle-class to grow," Shourie, a former World Bank economist and newspaper editor, said.


But if India is to truly free itself from the past, then it has to put its people first: education and health care in South Asia rank only above those of sub-Saharan Africa, a report by the Asian Development Bank said.

There are growing income gaps, especially between urban elites and the two-thirds of Indians who live in villages.

"This is an issue about which we started talking even before we acquired our independence," said former 1990s finance minister Yashwant Sinha.

"India is growing at 9 percent, 10 percent. On the other hand these basic necessities of life are not being adequately delivered and the old debate between growth and development has become very real."

For many, the government has a Jekyll and Hyde character, capable of firing rockets into space but incapable when bureaucrats halt social projects because they disagree on what color pen -- red or green -- must be used to sign memos.

That needs to change fast.

"You in the West have had the luxury of time and started off hundreds of years before us," said Sheila Dikshit, chief minister of New Delhi. "We haven't got the luxury of time."

(Additional reporting by Surojit Gupta in New Delhi)

© Reuters 2006. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by caching, framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters and the Reuters sphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group of companies around the world.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Textile industry on its knees, State help is needed

by Nirmala Carvalho
The economic Boom coupled with Chinese competition have accentuated the crises in the countries traditional economic sector. Suicide cases among workers reduced to absolute poverty.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Economic boom and foreign competition, in particular from China have placed the Indian textile industry: in order to better comprehend the future development of the sector on July 23rd, the People's Vigilance committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), along with other NGO’s and the Asian Human Rights Commission(AHRC),Hong Kong organized a state level consultation entitled “weavers and artisans in era of Globalization”, in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India. The father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi, believed that hand spinning, combined with weaving on hand looms, was the only logical way for the people of India to become self-sufficient Mahatma Gandhi weaving his own clothes in protest of British control of the Indian textile industry, launched his nationalist movement to defy colonialism and also partly as a gesture of self-reliance.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Lenin Raghuvanshi, Head of the Varanasi based PVCHR, and the recipient of the ‘2007 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights’ affirms that the meeting was organised to “highlight the pitiable condition of handloom weavers of Varanasi” Until recently, weaving was the second-most-common occupation in India behind farming. There are over two lakh weavers in and around the holy city of Varanasi. “But less than 55,000 get a job in a year leaving the remaining 1.5 lakh weavers jobless”. “The high unemployment level is worsened by the fact that Almost all weavers are either low caste Hindus or Muslims — the two communities which have been marginalised by the upper caste. Illiteracy is another problem which pushes the weavers to seek help from money lenders and credit-giving gaddidars. Not to forget the evil of government apathy”.

In the last three years, over 50 adults and children from weaving families have starved to death instead of enduring poverty. With each passing day, the skilled hands of weavers are being engaged in other jobs such as driving rickshaw, selling vegetables, laying roads and even begging. Weaver's aren't alone to bear the brunt, the condition of their family is worse. 50 percent of children in weaver families are malnourished, in blatant violation of Supreme Court orders, a number of children can be seen to survive on a mere bowl or two of plain rice and some bread. Some times they get nothing at all. About 70 percent of weavers' children are malnourished. The weavers also cannot afford basic medical care for their children, much less themselves.

India's global integration is devastating this artisan class.-this traditional silk industries are facing problems and challenges thrown by liberalization of trade. Dumping of cheap silk and silk-woven garments from China has further aggravated this problem. Due to this, 70-80 per cent of handlooms have been virtually closed down and the weavers are committing suicide. “India is riding the crest of the economic boom –concludes Raghuvanshi - whilst on the other, millions of craftsmen, manual labourers and rural workers are being left out of the economic boom. Helping those left behind is India's greatest challenge”.

A sari tale

Traditional weavers are at crossroads. An intense pride in their work goes hand in hand with despair at the bleak financial prospects. What price craft? PANKAJA SRINIVASAN


Thangavel Deivasigamany, an angry young man, resists all attempts to romanticise his vocation.


What does the future hold? (Clockwise from top) A weaver at the loom; and intricate and ever-changing patterns.

Damayanti pachchai, nagapazham karuppu, elai pachchai, ennai sheghappu… beautiful Tamil names describing colours ring pleasantly as sari after another, co

mes floating down. There is so much colour, drama, history and culture woven into each warp and weft of the handloom cotton sari. And, if it is a South cotton you are throwing on, then that is nearly 2,000 years of tradition you are wr apping around you (it is well known that the Romans traded in textiles from these parts). Poets and travel writers have waxed eloquent about the quality of Indian textiles. Indian handlooms are compared to the silks of Han China and the linens of the Pharaonic Egypt. And, cotton handloom is hailed as one of the greatest contributions of ancient cultures to the legacy of textiles of the world.

Armed with this piece of information, we head off to Negamam. A propitious start, as there is a soft breeze and the road is lined with lush thotams, and when the destination, it has been promised, is a warehouse of saris, the mood is definitely upbeat.

Riot of colours and designs

Clickety clack, clickety clack…the looms. Imagine yards of saris flowing out in all possible colours and designs. We are on the way to the home of a master weaver who has a number of weavers under him. (We learn that with a fe

w exceptions, the master weaver is usually just a middle man, who may not be a weaver at all). He gives them the yarn and the designs and commissions the saris to be woven that are supplied by him to the big showrooms and shops across the country. Rudraksha, annapakshi, peacock, paisley — one marvels at the intricate motifs. It is a work of art.

But Thangavel Deivasigamany, an angry young man, resists all attempts to romanticise his vocation — weaving handloom saris. For generations his family has been in this business in a village called Samathur, in Tamil Nadu. And, if he could have his way, he says that his is the last generation that will work on a loom. “I sit at the loom at 5 a.m. And, I get up only after 13 to 15 hours. At the end of a good month, I get to make about Rs. 4,000,” he says.

It is a familiar story. Of how government grants are plenty, but where middlemen come in the way. “I believe there are many sops for the weavers. I wish we knew what they were,” says Panchalingam, another weaver. Panchalingam worries about retirement. “After a day’s weaving, our toes are on fire. Knee pain usually overtakes us when we are barely into our forties and by then we are no good for any other profession. And, since most of us had taken to weaving when we were 12 years or even younger, there is little else we are good for.” An improvement in their post-retirement benefits is what Panchalingam is hoping for. “The time of our retirement is the time our children are ready for marriage, and so we fall into the debt trap,” he says.

Need to revamp

Deivasigamany insists that the co-operative societies, formed with the praiseworthy intention of helping the weavers, should be revamped or inspected by the government regularly. He complains of apathy, indifference, and even favouritism shown by the managers and the appraisers. “On paper, 300 members are shown reaping the benefits of medical insurance. But, in reality, not all the 300 do.” There is no respect for the weavers. “We are a downtrodden lot,” he says. Still, he can’t keep the pride out of his voice as he shows off a mustard yellow sari that is fresh off the loom. It has taken 30 hours to weave it.

If P.S. Rangaswamy’s dream comes true, then the likes of Devasigamany will have something to smile about. A weaver himself, Rangaswamy is today in a position to create work for many weavers who supply saris to his shop (PSR) i n Coimbatore. As a member of the All India Handloom Committee, he is hoping a “cluster” will bring about a change for the better in the lives of his brethren. A cluster will set up looms in several acres of land. Those weavers who cannot afford to maintain looms on their own will be welcome to come here and weave. All aspects of handlooms — from the processing to the marketing will be handled here. The yarn, designs, everything will be taken care of. People can come directly to the cluster and buy the sari from the weaver, and that will write the middleman right out of the picture. A handloom weaving service centre will upgrade weaver skill and reawaken their creativity, says Rangaswamy.

The weavers in this district pride themselves on their ability to weave any pattern, be it a Balucheri, a Patola or an ikat. But, it is this very mixing and matching that has sadly seen the fading away of old, traditional designs and motifs. P. Gopala Krishna, former President and life member of the Crafts Council of Tamil Nadu, bemoans the fact that there is no proper documentation of designs. “Before it all completely disappears, someone should take the trouble of locating and duplicating old designs. There should be a textile museum where designs are catalogued for posterity,” he says. There are individuals who scour the State for old designs, but these are few and far between.

Documenting the designs

One of these rare breed is Visalakshi Ramaswamy. Along with a student of the National Institute of Design (NID), Shubra Nayar, she has documented Chettinad saris. “A Photographic Design Directory of Chettinad Saris” is t he working title. She plans to bring it out as a book and as a CD. Asked if traditional designs and motifs have disappeared, she says they come and go. “But, every time the motifs return after a gap, there is some change in them, either in the colour combination or in their use. With weavers incorporating newer designs and ones from other States, the authenticity of a particular area is lost”, she feels.

“I hate changing even one line of a design,” says Visalakshi, but admits that she is often confused about that stand. “One has to be practical. There is only a niche market for the ‘authentic original look’. Some people love it, others don’t like the designs and colours at all. But, the weaver has to live. He will weave only that which will sell well,” she says. “So one can’t blame the weavers and nor can I sit in judgement”. In the process, authenticity is lost. “For my part, I am doing all I can to document these traditional designs and making it available for anyone who may be interested,” she says. She tries to retain the original flavour as much as possible in the saris she creates at Kandangi, in Chennai.

Other jobs are luring traditional craftsmen away from their centuries-old profession. In areas in and around Kanchipuram, weavers are offered better pay at factories. They are picked up from home and dropped back, get subsidised meals and have to work less hours. This could well be the story of other weaving districts, too. The way things are, it will not take very much for a Devasigamany to turn his back on his loom and look elsewhere for a better life. And, the traditional handlooms may well become history.

Crisis looms large

Crisis looms large

The once flourishing handloom industry in Panipat is today in distress. Geetanjali Gayatri looks at the many problems threatening the industry, which has now begun outsourcing work to Uttar Pradesh

Weavers at work in a handloom unit in Panipat. The number of units in the district is gradually declining. — Photos by Ravi Kumar
Panipat’s romance with handlooms is almost over. The industry which made this Haryana town the handloom capital of the region is now in the throes of a crisis. Employing over two lakh workers, the industry is plagued with labour problems, paucity of export orders and pending payments to suppliers. The biggest challenge, however, comes from the neighbouring China dumping its inexpensive items in huge quantities the world over including India as also the falling value of the dollar.

Rahim Khan has seen this cycle advance before his very eyes. He started working at his loom as a teenager. Today, in his mid-40s, he is a broken man. Sitting solemnly in front of his loom, cotton coating him like a shroud, he tells the story of an industry gone to seed.

The early days

Some four decades back, this district was scripting a success story with its loom and labour. A handful of families which had migrated from Pakistan to India during the Partition chose Panipat as their battleground in the mid-1970s. With just about nothing to their credit, they arrived empty-handed in search of jobs.

At that time, barring a few households which had looms, there was very little work to do in Panipat. Also, most of the families with looms were producing either blankets for supply to the Indian army or weaving khes.

Kalu Ram, owner of a handloom factory in Panipat, is one of the few immigrants from Pakistan who laid the foundation of the loom industry in the district
"It was a question of survival for us and we needed to fend for our families. Begging was out of question. I had only Rs 100 in my pocket and I knew it wouldn’t last forever. After visiting a few villages in the vicinity in search of a job, I decided to buy my own loom. I began with working on that one loom myself," says Kalu Ram Gaba, one of the few migrants who laid the foundation of the industry along with other migrant families.

Now 78 years old, Gaba explains, "Diwan Chand Bhatia was another immigrant from Pakistan who along with three or four others began the loom business around the same time as me. All of us took this up because we were in dire straits and needed every single paisa. I had never thought that a full-fledged business would emerge out of this single loom that I worked on so hard. It is immensely satisfying to see that a strong industry has been built on the foundation laid way back in the 1970s."

Gradually more people joined the loom industry and business began to move out from houses to small-scale units set up in clusters. "The women in the house would sit on the spindle spinning the yarn, while the men worked on the loom. Dyeing, too, took place at home. When opportunities presented themselves by way of greater demand, households began to employ labour to operate their looms and the industry came out of the closet and into the open," remarks Rajbir Singla, general manager in a factory specialising in tufted carpets.

The industry grew at a dizzy pace as more hands joined in much to delight of the locals. It meant creation of greater employment opportunities for them in the form of additional income over and above the earnings from their small farms.

From producing handspun fabric, the industry diversified into products ranging from linen to curtains to carpets even as it moved from handlooms to power looms in the 1980s and subsequently to velvet looms and imported machinery. Panipat emerged as the handloom hub for the region and industrial units began getting export orders by the dozens.

Housing at least 20 exporting units and over 200 exporters, the Panipat handloom industry, says the President of the Exporters Association, Ram Niwas Gupta, has grown by leaps and bounds. However, now, it has reached a point of saturation and the rosy picture is beginning to wear off. The industry with its Rs 2500 crore turnover is now shrinking and 25 per cent of the units have already shut down. The reasons are obvious.

Tough times

"Our biggest bottleneck is getting a Change-of-Land Use (CLU) certificate from the government without which expansion is not possible. Without expansion, we don’t stand a chance of competing with more advanced countries. In fact, we have appealed to the Haryana Government to frame a special policy for exporters and give CLUs to them on priority," Gupta maintains.

With nearly 90 per cent of the handloom units on non-industrial plots, the CLUs have become a necessity for most of these units. The exporters contend that big plots are generally not available and those that are made available have no basic facilities. Another grouse the exporters have is that the real handloom houses don’t get the big plots which usually go to those wanting to make quick money out of land deals. The handloom houses usually have to buy plots through re-sales.

Then, to add to the woes of the industry, their demand for giving textiles the status of an agro-based industry seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Claiming it to be the second most labour-intensive industry, the exporters hold that cotton is the "staple diet" of the handloom units, making it eligible for the status.

In addition, the chronic problem of failed power supply for hours on end, escalating costs of production and the government’s decision to revise the minimum wages of the labour have the industry heading for a disaster, the exporters aver. "While some units have closed, there are others on the brink of closure and still others which are moving out of the state. The industry is just not able to meet the growing expenses. To top it, the government has increased the minimum wages to the labour which is working against the interest of the labour class since the industry is slowly packing up. We sent a representation to the government against raising the wages but to no avail. Now, big houses have outsourced their production," remarks Kuldeep Singla, an exporter.

Panipat’s loss is slowly becoming Uttar Pradesh’s gain with weaving work ironically getting outsourced to labourers there since it works out to be a lot cheaper. "They take our orders and designs and get these made. The ready products are delivered at our doorstep. In this way we are saved the trouble of buying the yarn, identifying ‘masters’ who bring in labour, organising their stay along with other allied expenses. Besides, the ready product works out to be cheaper and the process is hassle-free," emphasises Pradeep Tayal, organising secretary of the Exporters Association.

This, however, is proving to be detrimental to the locals who are forced to look for alternatives to make a living with jobs no longer available at the handloom units. Some third generation families employed at the looms say they are worried about making both ends meet if this trend is not nipped in the bud.

Thirtyeight-year-old Shamshudinn, hailing from Bareilly and working at one of the pit looms, says he knows the looms like the back of his hand. "For as far back as I can remember, I only recall accompanying my father to the unit. I used to spend the day learning the technique and have never thought of exploring any other vocation. However, with orders being handed over to labourers in UP, we will soon be out of jobs," he rues.

The labour is an exploited lot in Panipat. With no organisations to watch over their interest, they live pitiably, just eking out an existence. The workers employed in every unit live in the most inhospitable conditions with just a dingy room for the entire family. Stench fills the air around them and they don’t even have toilets. The health problems only magnify the misery. Breathing in cotton flakes the whole day, they pay for their work with their lives, suffering from bronchial infections and getting a pittance in lieu of the laborious work they do.

They get what the "master" thinks they deserve. Since there is no permanent labour in an industrial house, it is the "master" who herds them together from Bihar and UP and gets them to a house which has orders and work. The management has nothing to do with the labour directly and operates through the master who rules over "his men" at the looms. In case there are no orders in the unit he has brought them to, he has every right to ask them to just pack up and move to a more lucrative business unit with export orders.

However, in view of China going all out in producing and dumping products by the tonnes, the orders to export houses, too, are few and far between. Their number has significantly dropped in the last couple of years owing to stiff competition from machine-made inexpensive Chinese products which have flooded the markets. And, without government support, the industry is gradually failing to deliver and meet

While the exporters manage to get their "pound" of profit by cutting the payments to the suppliers in the name of debit notes for defaulting on supply by claiming dissatisfactory products, late supplies or on any other ground, the suppliers maintain they too are just as exploited as the labour class.

"There is a shortfall of export orders because the buyers want the products at the same rate as before. We cannot meet their demand because the rate of the dollar has fallen and our rates have correspondingly increased. There is an ominous slump in the market which is indicative of things to come. Taxes, VAT, hoarding of cotton are all problems we deal with every day. For, how can we pay out of our pocket to sustain a dying unit?" asks a harried Deepinder Kumar, supplier to a number of export houses.

Today, Panipat’s handloom industry is headed for a crisis. Each player in the game is dependent on the other for his share of earnings and yet, together, they are caught in a vicious cycle where the idle labour awaits work, the exporters await orders, the suppliers their pending payments and the industry, a saviour.

Threat of closure

Workers at the loom breathe in cotton flakes for long hours, making them prone to bronchial infections
Though the exact number of looms with which the industry began in Panipat is unknown, the numbers today stand at 40,000 looms in over 2100 units in the city. Though the number of looms has gone up in the past just like the exports from this handloom capital of the region, the number of total units is gradually falling at the rate of five per cent a year.

Officials of the Industries Department, Haryana, maintain that while export figures at first glance may seem to have risen steadily, that is not the case. In 1999-2000, the figure stood at Rs 680 crore. Four years later, exports grew to a whopping Rs 1600 crore in the financial year 2003-04. However, in 2006-07, the rise was not so dramatic, growing only by Rs 660 crore to Rs 2260 crore. The irony lies in the fact that while the number of looms and exports has increased, most of the work is now outsourced to UP.

Officials also point out that the withdrawal of subsidy of 20 per cent in the initial investment to set up a handloom unit under the Rural Industrialisation Scheme also adversely affected the industry, leading to closure of a number of handloom and ancillary units.

Draping a piece of tradition

Smita Balram Kumar

Well-known for her exquisite twists to Benarasi sarees, her single exclusive collection every year and her adopted weavers, Abha has incorporated styles, textiles and weaves from cultures across the world..

The saree must be revived. Our textiles have been lying dormant. Most sarees today are bad mixes. People should be able to hold onto their sarees. I have sarees that are 12 years old and some that I have even redone, says the enterprising saree revivalist Abha Dalmia.

Well-known for her exquisite twists to Benarasi sarees, her single exclusive collection every year and her adopted weavers, Abha has incorporated styles, textiles and weaves from cultures across the world. Her first collection based on the Japanese theme was a sell out. This time round she interestingly introduced Thai Ikat weave into her work and showcased it in Bangalore recently, when she engaged in a chat with Metrolife.

“I travel all the time. Different styles inspire me. I was very impressed by the old Thai textiles and decided to incorporate it into my sarees. Cross-cultural styles are great. The more you do it, the better it is. I have done Bandhni weave on Benarasi sarees and phulkari work on sarees. This way my Indian weavers learn something new everytime,” says the Delhi-based designer.

Indulge in a conversation about her adopted weavers and Abha gets nostalgic. She reminisces, “Some poor weavers were sent to me from Benares. I love textiles. So, I decided to adopt them and made them work on mine and my daughter’s trousseau. They were brilliant and soon began to understand my sensibilities. I decided to market their work.

“This is not a commercial venture. I satisfy my urge for creativity and they earn a livelihood. I also wanted to adopt weavers from Hyderabad. But it didn’t work.”

Abha started with just two looms 20 years ago. Today she has 60 looms for the 50-odd weaver families that stay with her. All her sarees are handwoven and speak volumes of her personality. One cannot miss the elegance in terms of mute patterns, stylised borders, lavish colour palette and contemporary twists.

Ask her how to accessorise a saree, she suggests, “Each saree of mine tells you how to accessorise it. Wear different textured blouses to break the monotony. Either your clothes should speak or your jewellery.”

Abha shows her annoyance when asked about the style of sarees used in the Bollywood. She says her sarees reflect the style of the likes of Rajmata Gayatri Devi and would like to design for actresses like Shabana Azmi, Aishwarya Rai, Rekha, Rani Mukherjee, Tabu and Vidya Balan. “I will design only for the Indian sensible woman,” quips Abha who believes that only women must design sarees. Say why? “Men have a different way of looking at women and this translates into their work,” she believes.

Talking about Bangalore’s fashion quotient, she says, “Bangalore is picking up now. People here are vibrant and young. The designers are as good as those in Kolkota. At least they are creative.”

Abha has always remained low-key and does not wish to be part of any store or any fashion week. “I don’t want to go like a bubble and finish like a bubble. I want to be there for my weavers till my last breath. Everyone has a goal in life. My goal is not to make money,” she ends on a philosophical note.

Revived China silk trade hits Indian weavers

By Indrajit Basu

KOLKATA - As the unexpected morning rain sweeps across the congested lane in Bara Bazaar, home to hundreds of silk weavers in the temple city of Varanasi in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, Mushtaq anxiously waits for the rain to stop to go to work as a salesman in the market. Had it been about a year back, though, he wouldn't have had to worry, for he would have been busy by now weaving his own silk brocade with the help of the now-silent hand loom lying next to him.

But as this second-generation silk weaver gazes reminiscently at the idle wooden, hand-driven weaving machine that helped him earn his living not so long back, he is not the only one suffering.

A trip down the mohallas (neighborhoods) of silk weavers in Varanasi will reveal that every household has more non-functional looms than functional ones, while many weavers like Mushtaq have been compelled to move away from their trade and resort to such menial labor as pulling rickshaws and construction work for survival.

The scene is no different in the town of Ramanagram, near Bangalore, an erstwhile silk-processing (turning silk to silk yarn and then to fabric) center in Karnataka, southern India, which in contrast to Bangalore's booming information-technology sector is almost deserted, and full of closed silk-processing units.

"A combination of the abolition of quantitative restrictions, declining tariffs on textile imports, and events like the opening of the Nathu La Pass are resulting in cheap imports of silk, especially from China, which is posing serious competition to the Indian silk-weaving industry," said Ritu Sethi, managing trustee of Craft Revival Trust, a Delhi-based not-for-profit organization engaged in promotion of arts and crafts in the country, "as a result of which this hand loom sector is facing its worst slump ever."

Indeed, even as the two Asian giants, India and China, celebrate the first anniversary this month of the opening of Nathu La to trade 44 years after a border conflict between the countries had shut this Himalayan border pass on the ancient trade route called the "Silk Road", its landmark reopening has been anything but beneficial for India. While local silk-industry sources allege that this route is increasingly facilitating illegal import or dumping of Chinese silk and other commodities, other sections of Indian industry say that the official trade between the two countries is hardly worth talking about.

Reports say the biggest problem is that the reopening of this route has made the borders even more porous for unofficial imports of commodities, many of which are silk and other textiles.

"For the handwoven silk industry in particular," said Sethi, "the market is getting flooded by cheap copies of traditional woven silk fabrics and saris, where local silk weavers have failed to compete."

She added that the most affected is the silk-weaving segment of Varanasi (famous for their hand-made silk saris and fabrics called Benarasi silk) because most of their designs are being copied in China and dumped in India. "I must also add that local [in Surat, Gujarat] power looms are also weaving copies of Benarasi silk [out of cheaper Chinese silk yarn] and flooding the market," Sethi said.

Benarasi silk saris and brocades, renowned for their fine fabrics and exquisite designs, are woven by highly skilled weavers who primarily come from Varanasi (earlier called Benares or Banaras). Until recently Benarasi silk was exclusively woven from yarns produced (and processed mainly in) southern India. For centuries, Benarasi silk was largely a home-based industry, where the fabric was woven by manually operated hand looms that enabled the weavers to churn out their artistic designs and exclusive motifs that made Benarasi silk famous.

Over the past decade, however, the structure of the handwoven-silk industry in India has undergone significant changes. For one, because of increasing prices of raw materials, particularly silk yarn, prices of handwoven silk have also shot up, making its machine-made (power loom) counterparts much cheaper. Second, "exports of huge quantities of both silk yarn and textile/fabrics by China have resulted in a slump in demand of the Benarasi or hand-made silk industry in the country", said Nesar Ahmed, who recently completed a study on the impact of globalization on the Indian hand-made-silk industry for the Delhi-based All India Artisans and Craftworkers Welfare Association (AIACA).

Consequently, "the livelihoods of thousands of traditional [silk] weavers are displaced, while many are living in penury", says the AIACA. In the Varanasi cluster, for instance, the industry estimates that more than 50,000 (out of an estimated population of 125,000) weavers are now either unemployed or have taken up other, menial jobs.

Although there is a consensus about the fact that the industry faces a crisis, different stakeholders perceive the reasons for their plight differently.

"While the weavers blame the power looms as the biggest culprits for their misery," because these machines can easily copy every

design and innovation of the weavers and churn out low-quality products at a much lower price, says the AIACA study, "the traders feel that the import of Chinese fabrics, which are also embroidered and sold as hand-made silk, are the main reason for the declining demand for Benarasi and Karnataka silk."

The dumping, though, hasn't really gone unnoticed. After an investigation revealed there was US$180 million in Chinese silk

imports in 2004, a 47% jump over the previous year, as a result of appeals from industry associations such as the Karnataka Weavers Federation (Bangalore) and the Silk Trade Association (Varanasi), the Indian government imposed an anti-dumping duty for five years of $27.98 per kilogram for Chinese imports of mulberry raw silk (termed 2A variety) in the middle of 2005. Provisional tariffs ranging from 57-108% were also imposed on other silk imports from China.

But those measures hardly solved the problems, say industry sources.

"The Chinese companies increased exports of other silk products like fabrics and textiles to India," said an industry observer, "which were dumped in the country at around $1-1.5 per meter, half the price at which Indian silks sell."

Sources also allege that since the duty was imposed, Chinese exporters have also tried marking the 2A variety of silk as 3A, which is lower-quality and outside the Indian anti-dumping levy, and pushed it into India.

The Chinese exporters, though, deny that silk from the Middle Kingdom is "dumped" in India. The China Chamber of Commerce for the Import and Export of Textiles, for instance, claims that while calculating the Chinese prices, India has not considered the Chinese exporters' true production costs, instead assuming a much lower cost and concluding that silk products are being "dumped". Moreover, the chamber claims that Chinese exports to India actually benefit the Indian silk industry because demand for silk yarn and fabrics in India is far more than what the country can produce.

This could be true, partially at least, because according to the Mysore-based Central Sericulture Research and Training Institute, against an annual requirement of about 25,000 tonnes of silk, India produces only about 15,000 tonnes. "So from that perspective, Chinese imports [of silk yarn] could be beneficial for the Indian silk industry," said Ritu Sethi of Craft Revival Trust.

Still, even as the Indian handwoven-silk industry struggles to find out ways to combat the Chinese, another segment of the Indian handicrafts industry that is facing severe threats from China's manufacturing prowess is chikankari, which is fine and intricate embroidery done with white untwisted yarn on muslins.

Its name derives from the Persian word chakin, meaning the rendering of delicate patterns on fabric, and until now it has been considered an exclusive preserve of artisans in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. Like handwoven silk fabrics or brocades, chikankari is labor-intensive and time-consuming, where a craftsman can take as much as 15-20 years to be adept in the art, and sometimes 10-15 days to complete an entire chikan ensemble. According to the Association of Chikan Manufacturers in Lucknow, the Chinese textile industry has also mastered the art of "machine-made" chikankari and is "flooding the local market with made-in-China chikankari products".

Nevertheless, although the business communities of the two countries are still watching the reopening of the Nathu La Pass warily, the northeastern states of India, particularly Sikkim, are looking forward to the potential that this fabled "Silk Route" promises.

"Unlike the border trade agreements signed by the Indian government with its neighboring countries including Myanmar and Bangladesh, this agreement [opening of the Nathu La Pass] is likely to have a much larger scope both in terms of coverage of geographical regions and services," said a spokesperson for the Department of Commerce and Industries of the government of Sikkim. "Besides direct gain to India, the opening of this trade route could generate a whole lot of benefits to the otherwise landlocked Sikkim and the neighboring states [of] the northeast region and West Bengal."

Indrajit Basu is a Kolkata-based journalist.

(Copyright 2007 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

20,000 families of weavers will impact

Re rise may extract due of Rs 1 lakh cr

Asit Ranjan Mishra / New Delhi July 26, 2007

The handicraft sector fears business losses of around $5 million, which will impact 20,000 families of weavers directly or indirectly.

The survey, conducted by the commerce ministry, covered eight export-driven sectors.

Massive retrenchment and a potential financial loss of nearly Rs 1,00,000 crore due to a loss in value and competitiveness are the key findings of a three-month field survey on the impact of the rising rupee on Indian exports conducted by the commerce ministry between March and June.

The sample survey, the first of its kind, covered eight export-driven sectors in which import intensity is low and export dependence high. Its overall findings suggest massive lay-offs as units close following order cancellations, reduced profit margins and a loss of competitiveness.

Sector Impact
Textiles and garments Expected job loss: 200,000; Loss in
production capacity: 20-25%
Leather Reduced profitability: 75%
Processed agricultural
products Cash loss: 22%
Handicraft Business loss: $5 million
Engineering goods Cash loss: 10-15%
Chemicals Reduction in exports: 20-25%
Sports goods Job loss: 10%
Marine products Reduction in exports: 10%

The rupee has appreciated from a low of Rs 46.83 since July last year to around Rs 40.50 at present.

Worst hit among the sectors is leather, which saw profitability drop 75 per cent and 1,900 workers lose their jobs in the six units surveyed.

The processed agricultural products sector saw loss of export orders to the extent of 25 per cent and lay-offs between 35 and 40 per cent. The handicraft sector fears business losses of around $5 million, which will impact 20,000 families of weavers directly or indirectly.
The report, prepared by a committee of officials led by additional secretary, the commerce department, R Gopalan, states that the textiles and garments industry alone cut around 11,000 jobs between March and June in the 45 units surveyed.

“It is on the verge of reducing the workforce by 200,000 workers. In Tirupur (Tamil Nadu) alone, the job losses are expected to be around 80,000,” the report says.

Overall, the report said the loss in terms of export growth would be more severe than predicted by the Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics, which revised the methodology for estimating provisional figures for the current financial year.

The report says the unadjusted provisional figures for export growth would have been 13 per cent in dollar terms and merely 2 per cent in rupee terms in May 2007 against 18 and 6 per cent, respectively, under the revised formula.

The survey was conducted by Directorate General of Foreign Trade officials and submitted to Commerce Minister Kamal Nath on July 12, the day the government announced a relief package for exporters.

The report adds that exporters are constrained by the fact that about 70 per cent of India’s exports are still invoiced in dollars, despite the currency’s falling value. The valuation loss due to such rupee appreciation is around Rs 53,000 crore at an average annual exchange rate of Rs 40.5 per dollar.

Since Indian exporters sell in a buyers’ market and the Indian rupee is not fully convertible, exporters have not been able to change the invoicing pattern to rupees, which would have been in their favour.

Dyers and weavers` consortia to be formed soon

The Imphal Free Press

IMPHAL, Jul 23: Five thousand weavers in Imphal East area are identified to be given capacity building inputs under the Integrated Handloom Cluster Development Programme under the sponsorship of the Office of the Development Commissioner (Handloom), ministry of textiles, government of India.

Conveying the above information in an interaction with IFP, K Ahmed, director Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship (IIE), Guwahati, said that the capacity building is aimed at better production and reaching out to bigger markets. Ahmed said, "The different self help groups will be empowered by providing linkages with banks, raw materials at cheaper prices, design inputs, wider market reach, etc."

The director of IIE, Guwahati is in town to attend a workshop on consortia formation at Hotel Anand Continental today. The workshop is being organised by IIE, Guwahati under the sponsorship of Integrated Handloom Cluster Development Programme of the Development Commissioner (Handloom).

IIE, Guwahati is implementing the Integrated Handloom Cluster Development Programme at Imphal East concentrating in four major pockets of Kongba, Wangkhei, Kongpal and Tangkhul Avenue under the sponsorship of Office of the Development Commissioner (Handloom), ministry of textiles, government of India with the objective of empowering the poor weavers of the area.

As one of the component of the action plan of the cluster initiative, consortia are to be formed at various levels in the cluster. Ahmed said that actions will be taken soon to form small consortia for dyers with local partners and consortia for the SHGs among weavers.

In the workshop, Ksh Kunjabi, proprietor Kunjabi and Co. Chartered Accountants, spoke on forms association (consortia) and its merits and demerits. He highlighted the need for effective legal framework for the different handloom organisations existing in Manipur to become successful.

The other resource person, L Dwijamani, legal expert, spoke on the definition of consortium and other legal formalities of formation of consortium. Designer H Sukumar spoke on the importance of creative cost-effective designs to get value-added products. Dr SB Baruah, head of research and study centre IIE, Guwahati was also present at the workshop.

Summing up the speeches of the resource persons, Dr Robita, associate professor Commerce department, Manipur University, said that though Manipur is well-known for handloom and sports, the popularity in handloom could not be translated to effective economic gains. She said that this area needs to be worked on if handloom is to survive and flourish.

Bimolata, proprietor, Ningthibee Collection, who attended the workshop said, "The workshop is very timely and needed as it will strengthen the productivity of the local weavers substantially. Weavers here will get access to better designs, raw materials and also to bigger markets." Around 30 weavers attended the workshop today.

The globalisation of miserabilism
Paul Mason's new book tells some scintillating stories of working-class resistance. Yet it ends up endorsing the anti-development prejudices of today's sourpuss greens.
by Neil Davenport

Despite the frequent attacks on the British working classes by New Labour politicians and liberal commentators, identifying yourself as ‘working class’ has recently become a badge of honour. In January 2007, for instance, the UK government’s Social Trends survey revealed that more British people were proclaiming themselves ‘working class’ than ever before (1). And in recent years, commentators and reporters have begun to discuss the issue of low pay and poor working-conditions in the UK and beyond. Are class politics and workplace issues back on the political agenda once more?

Paul Mason, BBC Newsnight’s industrial correspondent and veteran left-winger, deliberates on the question of social class in his new book Live Working or Die Fighting: How the Working Class Went Global. He tentatively suggests that a ‘new working-class movement’ is emerging. His book provides firsthand accounts of both exploitative working practices and victorious strike action in China and India and beyond. Mason’s thesis is that, in some ways, these working classes are ‘reliving stories that were first played out more than a century ago’ (2). And to back up his assertion, he inserts snapshots of key moments in ‘workers’ history’, such as the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester in 1819 and the Paris Commune of 1871, next to his primary research on the ‘new working class’.

Mason explores this historical juxtaposition because he feels frustrated with the erosion of history as a subject, as well as the marginalisation of ‘workers’ history’ from mass consciousness. As this essay will later explore, it’s questionable whether social history can be analysed in such a particularistic way. Nevertheless, I share Mason’s despair at the current philistinism that the new political elites have fostered. Indeed, throughout his book Mason constantly emphasises the autodidact culture of the old working-class movement; the ‘world within a world’ of workers’ libraries, discussion groups and publishing houses. Mason is clearly downcast that such traditions have gone the same way in the UK as flying pickets and General Strikes have.

Mason sees Live Working or Die Fighting as an attempt to revive this ‘vital force’, of education and self-improvement, for new generations of workers worldwide. He also believes that recounting key struggles can show workers in the developing world ‘where it can lead, and what patterns of revolt, reaction and reform look like when you view them over decades’ (3). Mason is a graceful and evocative writer and he manages to bring to life the exhilaration and turbulence, the triumphs and despair of working-class struggle over a 150-year period. But, while it is particularly enjoyable to read accounts of the once-mighty German workers’ movement in the 1920s, it’s difficult to share Mason’s belief that a new international workers’ movement is being born. As this essay will show, Mason’s book, for all its avowed radicalism, ends up reaching some deeply conservative conclusions.

The working class: a class in itself or for itself?

In 1990, Frank Furedi wrote a highly controversial essay in Living Marxism, titled ‘Midnight in the Century’, on the consequences for Marxist politics of the collapse of Stalinism in Eastern Europe. Furedi’s main point was that after 70 years of setbacks and defeats, ‘for the time being at least, the working class has no political existence’ and ‘there is no real sense of a working-class movement with a distinctive political identity anywhere in the world’ (4). Some on the left misinterpreted the essay as arguing that the working class ‘no longer existed’, or they claimed that Furedi was ‘writing off’ the working class. Critics pointed to places like Brazil, then crippled by a wave of strikes, as evidence that the working class was still a serious political force (5). In many ways Live Working or Die Fighting is a continuation of this tendency to go ‘strike-spotting’, whereby any dispute is flagged up in order to prove that the working class is politically alive and kicking.

Mason reports on the effects of strike action at the Honda plant in New Delhi, India. Despite being savagely beaten to the ground by riot police, the striking workers won the dispute: ‘Japanese managers at the plant agreed a settlement: full pay for the time spent on strike, all sacked workers to be reinstated, a year’s freeze on all other demands and the union to be recognised.’ (6) Mason also points out that some 40million Indian workers downed tools in 2003 and concludes that ‘what is happening in Noida and Gurgan is the creation of a brand new Indian working class’ (7). Strike action that leads to higher wages and better working conditions is certainly something to celebrate, and we should loudly cheer those Indian workers who have won improvements in their working lives. But do such incidents add up to the development of a ‘new working-class movement’?

One of the frustrating paradoxes of today is that while more people are now in work than ever before, workers’ influence on politics and society is minuscule. The working class has no presence on the political stage, it has no voice in public debate, and its concerns make no impact upon the national agenda. The fact that Mason has to roam the globe in search of strikes and disputes is actually proof that the working class is not the same as it was in 1974, let alone 1904. Others quote the number of those in work to prove the existence of the working class. The physical existence of the working class is not in doubt. Through the workings of the market system, millions of workers are fused into a single class by undergoing a common experience – they can only survive by selling their ability to work to an employer for a wage. As a consequence, this wage-labour/capital relationship continually creates and recreates the working class anew.

Thus objectively, the working class exists and objectively the working class has increased in numbers over the past 10 years. What hasn’t developed yet amongst the working class is a subjective awareness of themselves as a collective with the power to transform society. Mason understands that the subjective factor, of ‘class awareness’, is a ‘little complicated today’, but still insists there are parallels between the struggles of the old working class and new workers in India and China. Aside from lacking any historical specificity, this is merely projecting wishful fantasies on to the isolated incidents he reports on. There are also times when objective factors, such as numbers and unions, become blurred with the all-important subjective dimension.

EP Thompson, in his pioneering book The Making of the English Working Class, argued: ‘Class happens when some men, as a result of common experience (inherited or shared) feel and articulate the identity of their interests as between themselves, and as against other men whose interests are different from (and usually opposed to) theirs.’ (8) In other words, class becomes important when the working class stops being merely a class ‘in itself’ (objectively) and becomes a class ‘for itself’ (subjectively).

Mason doesn’t ignore Thompson’s classic book in Live Working or Die Fighting, but he appears not to have fully learned from such insights. He does, however, recognise certain changes over the past 20 years, such as the atomised and individuated experience of Western workers today. He also correctly recognises that the ‘victory’ over fascism in 1945 represented the death of working-class independence and has stunted its political development ever since. Nevertheless, he still tends to see the class struggle in a boom-bust cycle, and thus cannot fully comprehend how the present climate is completely unprecedented. So he insists that the conditions for a new international movement to develop are stronger now than at any time since ‘the run-up to the First World War’ (9). For Mason, it’s all down to the G-word....

Globalisation – is it the same the whole world over?

The subtitle of Mason’s book, How the Working Class Went Global, might seem odd given that communists had organised international movements previously. And prior to its Stalinist turn, communism was defined by its commitment to internationalism. What Mason is referring to is how the collapse of Stalinism in Eastern Europe and the marketisation of China mean that capitalism has unprecedented room to manoeuvre. For the first time since before the Russian Revolution, the working class globally now lives and works under ‘the same market system’. Thus: ‘with a globalised economy, a globalised labour movement begins to take shape.’ (10)

According to Mason, the ‘transnational corporation is the primary form of economic life’ and is seen to be more powerful than nation states. It’s certainly the case that multinational companies generate more wealth than some small nation states do. But does this mean Western nation states are relics of the past? Well, no. As the majority of capital is still tied up in the domestic country of origin, the nation state will still be needed to look after big corporations’ interests. And if there really is a ‘truly global working class’ - that is, a class free to move around the world for work - then how come most Western European states operate strict immigration controls from the developing world? It seems the nation state is still imposing divisions after all.

The concept of globalisation is popular today because it allows the political class to deny having much responsibility in running society. Outgoing UK prime minister Tony Blair once insisted that ‘due to globalisation’, it was ‘impossible’ for the government to improve or shape the economy. Mason’s endorsement of globalisation seems like a way of evading responsibility, too. If nation states are now irrelevant, and the working classes are a ‘transnational force in-waiting’, it follows that challenging difficult domestic issues can be ignored. This is something the radical left already has some experience of.

During the 1980s, the British left had a habit of setting up solidarity campaigns on Nicaragua, South Africa and Palestine. But they also steadfastly ignored expressing solidarity with Irish republicans closer to home. As the Irish War was a deeply unpopular and extremely controversial issue, many British left-wingers felt uneasy challenging the anti-republican consensus in public debate. It was far preferable to wear Sandinista badges or Palestinian-style scarves as some kind of nod to ‘internationalism’.

Yet proper internationalism does not mean simply reporting on struggles in faraway lands. It means taking sides with those who are in conflict with your domestic government. In Britain, this might have meant taking sides with Irish republicans, or Argentina during the Falklands War, or Iraq during the Gulf War of 1991. The idea that the ‘enemy is at home’ is a key component of internationalism, and encouraging workers in the imperialist homeland to ‘take sides’ against the British state was crucial in reconstituting working-class independence. Mason’s brand of ‘internationalism’ in Live Working or Die Fighting might seem radical and outward-looking, but it actually means he doesn’t have to bother challenging controversial issues in the UK - whether it is health panics, free speech bans, restrictions on liberties or even Celebrity Big Brother. Reporting on strikes in Bolivia might sound ‘international’ and impressive, but it also suggests that ordinary people in Britain are not worth bothering with anymore (11).

An even bigger problem is that Mason sees the anti-globalisation and environmentalist protesters who emerged in the 1990s as the vanguard in the new ‘global working-class movement’. ‘Here was a coherent opposition to economic globalisation not simply based on anarchist radicalism or Marxist nostalgia’, he says (12). Yet these New Social Movements, as sociologists often call them, are a force for reaction, not progress. Compared to the old trade union movements, the rioters in Seattle called for less consumption and wealth, not more. Such protests are simply a morally outraged complaint against development, a tantrum against the trappings of modern-day society. Smashing up McDonald’s and Starbucks is supposed to be a symbolic gesture against big business, but it’s also a snub against the people who eat and work in such places.

The social composition of these protesters and, more importantly, their political outlook, is actually alien to working-class politics. Back in 1994, for instance, I worked with the Campaign Against Militarism in Manchester alongside eco-activists who were also challenging the Conservative government’s Criminal Justice Bill (CJB). Very early on it was clear that their openly anti-working-class, anti-human and pro-nature sentiments meant there was little common ground between these misanthropes and Marxists. We might have opposed the CJB, but on progress, development and nature, we found ourselves totally at loggerheads.

This is hardly that surprising, though. A closer inspection of working-class politics and environmentalism shows that the two are massively contradictory. Whereas the aim of working-class politics is to break free of the market’s limitations and create a more productive, freer society where everyone can maximise their potential, environmentalism has the opposite agenda. Above all, green politics stresses the idea of ‘natural limits’, on resources and the production of resources; it also seeks to impose these limits on what we consume, what we earn, what our family size should be, or where we should go on holiday. Environmentalism and Marxism are pretty much polar opposites.

Incredibly, Mason sees anti-globalisation protesters as having a unique and admirable influence on the political process: ‘Basically, those in power have had to listen, and the proliferation of “corporate social responsibility” executives and “carbon neutrality” monitors within large companies testifies to that.’ (13) In reality, the endorsement of environmentalism by the powers-that-be is both a useful mechanism for restructuring capitalism and a way of imposing new moral codes on individuals in the West and in developing countries. Indeed, Mason seems to have little problem with forces in the West advising what should happen in the developing world. As he approvingly points out: ‘A major NGO [non-governmental organisation] is often a far more powerful weapon than striking.’ (14) These are the same NGOs that use environmentalism to prevent development in poorer countries and which undermine the national sovereignty of Third World countries in the process. Similar to social reformers in the early twentieth century, Mason believes such state institutions are the oppressed’s ‘friend’. And alarmingly, he strongly advocates that NGOs should ‘do something’ about China.

Whispers against the Chinese

China’s economic development provokes ever-louder condemnation. It has taken on a variety of forms: one week it will be complaints against ‘toxic China’ and its apparently ‘appalling record’ on the environment (15). At other times, liberals and Western governments will point to China’s poor record on human rights as a way of demonising the country. In truth, Western commentators feel uncomfortable with the Chinese ‘can do’ work ethic and resent the Chinese commitment to growth. While Britain is so paralysed by eco-constraints that even house-building lags far behind demand, China gets on with constructing hi-tech dams and power stations.

In a climate of chauvinist attacks on China that could ultimately threaten the country’s long-term prosperity, the last thing progressives should do is join in with this carnival of reaction. Mason, though, has no qualms. In the chapter ‘Rise Like Lions’, he provides a grim catalogue of work-related injuries and exploitation as a consequence of China’s rapid growth. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Britain’s road to development was also nasty, brutish and painful. Yet the solution is always for more development, not less, as Mason implies. For all the punitive working conditions, the Chinese workers he interviews still prefer working in factories than living off the land: ‘However tough it is for Dang Zhenzhen, she’s the first woman in her family with money enough to worry about high-heeled shoes and, like the maimed men from the sweatshops, she sees this as a one-way journey.’ (16) It begs the question: why does Mason wish the Chinese would apply the brakes?

He notes, rather disapprovingly, that ‘the new Chinese workforce has so far done everything its [Western] predecessors did except organise trade unions and fight for its political rights’ (17). It’s difficult to imagine how a new form of socialist politics could emerge so soon in a country where socialism was seen to fail. There’s more than a whiff here of social chauvinism. Mason’s solution to the Chinese working class’s apparent backwardness is to rely on stronger NGO interference in the region. He writes: ‘It is also clear that China is the big unknown in the equation. In China, human rights are severely curtailed, NGOs have little sway, the huge urban workforce is the only part of the global working class not involved in the debate about globalisation.’ How disappointing!

Mason seems unable to comprehend that China’s road to development could not have emerged without political independence. To suggest that NGOs should have a greater role in China’s internal affairs is to call for that nation to be chained to Western control once more. In this context, then, we should be wary of outraged reports about the exploitation of the Chinese working class. This is not to accept such working practices or to be dismissive of working-class protest against them - signs of Chinese workers demanding better conditions and pay should be supported. But we should recognise that such reports about exploited Chinese workers are now used as a weapon against development in China, and thus against the people of China themselves. Since Mason is so keen on historical parallels, he should remember that during the Second World War both the British and German governments propagandised about the levels of exploitation in the opposing countries – in order to defeat them. Mason’s reading of ‘history’ is, as he admits, rather selective. It’s also the weakest aspect of his book.

‘Our’ Story or history?

In the introduction to Live Working or Die Fighting, Mason almost apologises for his bite-sized inclusions of important historical events. ‘There is no attempt to be comprehensive; I have just picked out some of the major events that happened during the great advance of the first hundred years, followed by the crisis and catastrophe of the interwar period.’ (18) The result, however, is to reduce such events to a kind of Top Ten Working-Class Fightbacks. It’s a sign of the times that even a book that ostensibly attempts to popularise social history can only do so in the disjointed, ‘modular’ approach that now passes for studying history.

Although I would guess that this isn’t entirely Mason’s fault (he hints that his publisher came up with the idea for this format), his one-sided ‘our story’ approach is definitely informed by his own theoretical weaknesses. ‘I have not given any more than a rough sketch of the situation in mainstream politics; if you want to know more about Louis Napoleon, Franklin Delano Roosevelt or Giovanni Giolitti, just type them into Google and press “Enter”.’ (19) Mason’s contempt for such famous bourgeois figures is partly based on the belief that they’ve hogged the historical limelight for long enough. Isn’t it about time we heard the stories and lives of ordinary workers instead?

And yet, Roosevelt and David Lloyd George are as tightly woven into history as the working classes are. Understanding the tensions and conflicts, the push and pull between political classes and the working masses, is vital in capturing and understanding the historical process. When recounting the 1831 silk weavers’ revolt in Lyon, France, Mason recounts how young workers would shout ‘Liberty!’ and ‘Republic!’ in order to stir up public antagonism. Elsewhere, when analysing the origins of the Paris Commune, he points out that demands for greater ‘freedom’, as well as novelist Louise Michel’s Campaign for Women’s Rights, proved to be catalysts in galvanising support for establishing the Commune.

The problem with concentrating solely on ‘history from below’ is that it ignores how such ideas were spread amongst the masses. Where did these ideas originate from? Why were they able to act as lightning rods for social change? To establish convincing answers, it is necessary to examine not just social actors from ‘below’ but also from ‘above’; it is necessary to dissect national and international trends as well as local factors. In short, we have to examine the movement of society in its totality, not simply prioritise local narratives over universal themes and developments. That only leads to a one-sided and banal view of history.

The ‘history from below’ approach cannot renew ‘historical thinking’ and stimulate any sense of historical agency. This is because Mason’s emphasis on ‘people… condemned to live short, bleak lives’ is inspired by the conservative assumption that people are moved by the traditions of the past rather than a vision of the future (20). Mason’s title, Live Working or Die Fighting, confirms the idea that political struggle is ‘nourished more by the image of enslaved ancestors than liberated grandchildren’ (21). No doubt Mason believes that recounting key working-class struggles will show what the outcomes of revolt ‘look like’, but he seems to be burdening the next generation with a century’s worth of defeat and disappointment. This is only to be expected. In truth, Mason seems close to giving up on mass and meaningful social progress. This is why he prefers the ‘micro-history’ to examining the bigger picture, where arguments for true shifts in progress can be made.

Far from ‘building on the gains’ of the past, Mason is actually reading history backwards, and projecting today’s anti-modernist prejudices on to the path of development. The ‘parallel’ he is keen to highlight isn’t so much victorious struggles then and potential revolts now, but how development rips asunder traditional ways of life - both yesterday and today. In the chapter ‘Everything connected with beauty’, for instance, he shows how hand-loom weavers in India today are under threat from industrial methods of production, as the artisans and hand weavers were in 1830s France. Mason acknowledges that ‘revolutionaries of the mid-nineteenth century’ saw artisans ‘as living dinosaurs, doomed to extinction, their craft mentality an obstacle to “class consciousness"’ (22). But he likens them to today’s ‘autonomous’ creative types and nods approvingly that they weren’t interested in vulgar materialism but in a ‘struggle for decency’. At moments like these, it seems this veteran left-winger has been hanging out with the petit-bourgeoisie for too long.

How miserablism went global?

Mason doesn’t seem to grasp what is actually inspirational about past struggles. It is clear from his examples that when freedom, liberty and prosperity became the watchwords of modern society, the working masses also fought to realise these goals for themselves. How much does contemporary society cherish such ideals of freedom and liberty? Not very much at all. Freedom tends to be viewed with fear and suspicion, while liberty is seen as the terrorist’s and paedophile’s ‘friend’. In many ways, Mason is sceptical about freedom and independence, too - perhaps that is why he wants NGOs to have even greater clout to restrict China and the Third World.

It is ahistorical and fantastical to believe that people in one era will mechanistically ‘relive’ the struggles of yesteryear. Yet reconnecting society to Enlightenment ideals – of liberty, equality and prosperity - is crucial if a progressive current is to be established in Britain and elsewhere. The demise of the old left (particularly the dead hand of Stalinism) and the old right should be viewed as an opportunity, not a burden, which we can use to establish a proper humanist politics for the twenty-first century.

Unfortunately, Mason’s bitter but understandable disappointment with the past means he can’t envisage a positive vision for the future. As with identifying yourself today as ‘working-class’, or liberal commentators making low wages and poor working conditions a big issue, these rehearsed totems of the left are part of the culture of complaint against modernity and modern life. Far from reviving a new breed of oppositional politics, this interest in class has become the latest way to align with suffering and victimhood – not so much Ten Days That Shook the World as Angela’s Ashes. Unfortunately, Live Working or Die Fighting isn’t so much a clarion call for liberation politics, as a case study in how the defeated left’s miserablism went global.

Neil Davenport is a writer and lecturer based in London.

Live Working or Die Fighting: How the Working Class Went Global by Paul Mason is published by Harvill Secker. (Buy this book from Amazon(UK))

(1) See Wannabe a Worker?, by Neil Davenport

(2) Live Working or Die Fighting: How the Working Class Went Global, Paul Mason (2007), Harvill Secker

(3) Live Working or Die Fighting: How the Working Class Went Global, Paul Mason (2007), Harvill Secker px

(4) ‘Midnight in the Century’ by Frank Furedi, Living Marxism, December 1990

(5) ‘Midnight in the Century – twilight of the RCP?’, Worker’s Power, January 1991

(6) Live Working or Die Fighting: How the Working Class Went Global, Paul Mason (2007), Harvill Secker p182

(7) Live Working or Die Fighting: How the Working Class Went Global, Paul Mason (2007), Harvill Secker p187

(8) Making of the English Working Class, by EP Thompson, Penguin (1963)

(9) Live Working or Die Fighting: How the Working Class Went Global, Paul Mason (2007), Harvill Secker p280

(10) Live Working or Die Fighting: How the Working Class Went Global, Paul Mason (2007), Harvill Secker p280

(11) For another example of this tendency in the radical left, see George Galloway: an accidental hero, by Brendan O’Neill

(12) Live Working or Die Fighting: How the Working Class Went Global, Paul Mason (2007), Harvill Secker p282

(13) Live Working or Die Fighting: How the Working Class Went Global, Paul Mason (2007), Harvill Secker p282

(14) Live Working or Die Fighting: How the Working Class Went Global, Paul Mason (2007), Harvill Secker p283

(15) See Toxic China, by Kirk Leech

(16) Live Working or Die Fighting: How the Working Class Went Global, Paul Mason (2007), Harvill Secker p5

(17) Live Working or Die Fighting: How the Working Class Went Global, Paul Mason (2007), Harvill Secker p5

(18) Live Working or Die Fighting: How the Working Class Went Global, Paul Mason (2007), Harvill Secker px

(19) Live Working or Die Fighting: How the Working Class Went Global, Paul Mason (2007), Harvill Secker pxi

(20) See Mythical Past and Elusive Future by Frank Furedi, Pluto (1992), p225

(21) Furedi, (1992), ibid, p225

(22) Live Working or Die Fighting: How the Working Class Went Global, Paul Mason (2007), Harvill Secker p44

Post handloom era, traditional weavers have no job or security

Many weavers have either migrated or died of hunger after powerlooms came into being in UP

Tarannum Manjul

Lucknow, July 23 When Ramkumar, a weaver, whose hands have embroidered golden and silver flowers on thousands of Benarsi saris, went to a trader, he was surprised to see many saris similar to his, were being sold at a much lower price than the rate to he generally provides his customers.

“I could tell that those saris were made from powerloom. But the trader was selling them as handloom saris,” said Ramkumar. The trader told him that the buyer could not make out the difference and he was making profit. “This was two years ago. I hardly embroider even one sari these days. Poverty is killing me.”

Ramkumar is not the lone example of weavers, who have been forced to live in poverty due to lack of work. This was evident in a consultation camp organised by Bunkar Dastkar Adhikar Manch and the People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) at Hotel Gomti in the state capital today.

The camp showed that many weavers have either migrated or have died due to hunger in eastern Uttar Pradesh after powerlooms snatched away their only source of livelihood.

For a change, in the camp, policymakers and the victims came together on one platform. While the weavers were present alongwith human rights activist Dr Lenin — Syeda Hameed, a member of the Union Planning Commission, represented the state government.

Siddiqui Hasan, a member of the Manch, said, “The poor weavers and artisans are suffering because of WTO and it’s growing influence in India. No one is worried about them.”

A weaver since 1960, Hasan was recently forced to reduce the number of saris being made by him because traders told him that powerloom saris offered them a bigger “margin”.

Hasan said that the government has to look seriously into the problems of the weavers and artisans.

“Times have changed and so has the technology. So, the government should train us in new designs and technology, so that we can make saris according to the demands of the market. We should also get health insurance from national banks,”
Hasan added.

Hameed said, “It is surprising to see that most of these weavers are men. I would also like my sisters to talk about their rights. Why is it so that it is always the agricultural sector, which makes noises over its rights? The weavers and artisans too should raise their voice for their rights.”

Sunday, July 22, 2007

PROFILE :Padmashali’s of Udupi
Shri Veerabhadra, Shantha Durga, Mahaganapathi Temple

Udupi is an important holy pilgrim town in the undivided Dakshina Kannada District in the old Madras province, presently divided as Kasargod District (in Kerala) Dakshina Kannada and Udupi District ( in Karnataka). Udupi is famous for the Lord Krishna Temple established by the famous Dwaitha philosoper Sri Madhwacharya. There are several other temples situated in and arround Udupi.

It is believed that the Padmashali’s in Dakshina Kannada originated from coastal Andhra Pradesh and migrated via Chennai, Kanchi and Madurai areas of Tamilnadu and settled in Dakshina Kannada about five to six centuries back. There are 16 Veerabhadra Temples in Dakshina Kannada spread from Kanhangad in the South to Barkur in the North. The Padmashali’s of the District remain members of one of the 16 Temples of the District.

During the year 2904 Padmashali’s of Udupi and surrounding areas like Bannanje, Shirva, Karandadi, Athradi, Parika, Mattu, Udyavara, Heribettu, Alevoor, built at Temple of their diety Sri Veerabhadra, in Kinnimulky. On the main road, very near to Swagatha Gopuram. The southern entrance to the Udupi Town.

During the last 100 years the Kinnimulky Veerabhadra Temple developed as a religious, social and cultural centre of the Padmashali’s living in Udupi and surrounding areas. About 350 householders are the members and worship in Sri Veerabhadra Temple, Kinnimulky as their Kuladevatha.

The main diety worshipped in the temple is Sri Veerabhadra. During the year 1997-1998 the Temple was renovated by the liberal contributions made the members of the temple and Public. Two more idols of Mahaganapathi and Shantadurga were installed during the renovation in 1998 and Temple has now developed as Shiva-Shakthi Kendra in Udupi. In addition to these idols there is a Naga Sannidhi in front of the Temple and Daivasthana of Dharmadevathas by the southern side of the Temple.

A sabha bhavana named Veerabhadra Kalabhavana was built during the year 1980-1987 by the Sabha Nirmana Samithi headed by Dr. S. Vysaraya Shettigar Mundkur, President Sri K. Mahabalesh Padmashali, secretary and Sri B. L. Padmashali treasurer and 15 other members. The Religious functions of the temple and other social and cultural functions are held regularly in the Veerabhadra Kalabhavana, which has a capacity of 500 seats.

Every year during Pournami day of Suggi (Meena) month the annual Mahothsava is held for 3 days. In addition special functions/poojas are held on Nagara Panchami, Rugupakarma, Ganesh Chathurthi, Deepavali, Karthika Amavasya and Mahashivarathri. During Navarathri, special poojas are held on all the 9 days with Chandika Parayana and on Durgashtami, Chandika Mahayaga is performed.

The temple is managed by a committee of 12 members headed by Sri Prabhashankar Padmashali Managing Trustee and President. For any information about the temple and poojas the devotees may please contact the following committee members:

Sri U Somappa Padmashali, Treasurer
Phone: 91 820 2524267 (O), 91 820 2527150 (R)

Sri U K Vasantha Kumar
Phone: 91 820 2522582 (R)

Sri Prabhashanker Padmashali
Phone: 91 8250 2525430 (R), 91 820 2529430 (O)

On Paper It Is Writ : From history's beginning, globalisation has had winners and losers

On Paper It Is Writ
From history's beginning, globalisation has had winners and losers
Nayan Chanda

Globalisation, once seen as westernisation on steroids, has been turned on its head: as Asian economies rise, global integration brings fear of a decline in living standards in the West. While the corporations riding on the transportation and technology boom rake in profits, the income of a majority of Americans has stagnated. In the anxiety over job security—resulting from offshoring of factories and outsourcing of services—globalisation has become a spectre haunting the American middle class. Arguments offered by economists that free trade and greater engagement with the world has brought prosperity to the US—to the tune of a trillion dollars per year—do not impress the average citizen, as the benefits have gone mainly to corporations and the financial and technology elite. A very small number of the 140 million American jobs have been outsourced, but it's largely affected white-collar US workers with a bigger clout in the media and political system. The rise of China and India that globalisation has facilitated has added to their fears.

Of course, the anxiety gripping US workers is a replay of countless such episodes in the millennial-long drama of globalisation. The word globalisation is of recent origin but the process of growing interconnectedness built on trade, travel, cultural diffusion and conquests harks back to the beginning of history. Its results are felt more swiftly than ever. Thanks to cheap and fast shipping, and fibre-optic transmission of data products, jobs move at a quicker pace. But the fundamental reasons why jobs vanish are as old as human history: someone's found a better, cheaper way of doing the same work.

For over three thousand years, generations of workers in Egypt's Nile Valley made a decent living by supplying the world's only popular writing medium, papyrus. Then came a Chinese innovation which turned waste—rags and tree bark—into paper, which was cheaper and sturdier than papyrus. By the 9th century, when Caliph Haroun-al-Rashid ordered that henceforth official documents should be written on paper (and not flimsy papyrus or expensive parchment), the Egyptian industry's fate was sealed.

Indians too had enjoyed a millennia-long monopoly in manufacturing cotton textiles, another major export commodity. From Roman times until the Industrial Revolution, Indian cotton calicos ruled the world. Europeans brought thousands of tons of silver from the New World to pay for cotton. The French banned import of Indian textile and in the 18th century British workers protested against Indian imports, "attacking all females whom they could find wearing Indian calicoes or linens, and sousing them with ink, aqua fortis, and other fluids". Those happy monopoly days ended when Europeans, unwilling to run up trade deficits and part with their increasingly rare silver, set up import-substituting industries, developing in the process labour-saving machines that heralded the Industrial Revolution. For the first time in its history, India became a net importer of cotton with the result that tens of thousands of Indian weavers lost their livelihoods. As William Bentinck, governor-general of India, wrote in a confidential report in 1835, "The misery (of the weavers) hardly finds a parallel in the history of commerce. The bones of the cotton-weavers are bleaching the plains of India." After half a century of innovations, India rose again as a leading textile exporter.

If the 'discovery' of the monsoon wind by traders brought an increasing number of buyers for Indian spices and textiles, a new monsoon wind in the shape of fibre-optic cables opened the pathway for exporting Indian brainware and services. The collapsing cost of transportation and communication has also enabled US corporations to cut costs by offshoring production to China and outsourcing backoffice functions, say, to India.While offshoring of production has forced thousands of blue-collar jobs to switch to other lower-paid jobs without too much protest, outsourcing of a much smaller number of white-collar jobs abroad has produced a disproportionately stronger reaction. In fact, the word outsourcing has replaced 'globalisation' as a fearful term for an influential US middle class. Not surprisingly, outsourcing will be a hot button issue in the 2008 presidential campaign.

Unlike Indian weavers in the nineteenth century who suffered silently, out of sight of the world, those affected by globalisation today can lobby their parliamentary representatives and go on television. A globalised media has become a dandy tool to denounce globalisation. The time when winners could ignore losers in the globalisation process is gone forever.

(Chanda is editor of YaleGlobal online. His new book*, Bound Together: How Traders, Preachers, Adventurers and Warriors Shaped Globalization—Viking/ Penguin, Rs 525—was released last week)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The beautiful world of indian sarees

By :

The Indian saree is one of the most versatile garments. Available in a number of varieties, the saree can be tied in a number of styles. Different regions of India specialize in the production of different varieties of sarees. Similarly, people from different regions adopt different styles of tying the saree. Normally, a saree has a length of 5 to 6 yards; however, certain styles of draping a saree require that its length be 9 yards. Indian sarees are available in a number of materials such as cotton, silk and polyester or a mixture of these materials. This article aims at giving a brief account of the different types of Indian sarees and the different styles of draping the saree.

Types of sarees produced in India

The following are the major types of sarees that are produced in the different regions of India:

Pochampally sarees: The famous Pochampally sarees are woven in the small cluster of villages around Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh. This cluster includes the villages of Pochampally, Koyalagudam, Puttapakka, Elanki and Chautupal. The tradition of weaving these sarees in these villages has been passed on from one generation to another. These sarees are usually woven from pure silk. The silk used in these sarees is brought from Bangalore while the jari or the golden thread is brought from Surat. Motifs such as elephants, flowers, parrots and diamonds are traditionally used in these sarees. The weavers are, however, developing new designs, keeping in view the changing trends and the preferences of the customers.

Ikat sarees: These sarees are woven in Orissa. They are very much similar to the Pochampally sarees of Andhra Pradesh.

Patola sarees: The famous Patola sarees are manufactured in Patan in Gujarat. They are also very much similar in design to the Pochampally sarees.

Garhwal sarees: The town of Garhwal near Hyderabad is famous for the production of Garhwal sarees. These sarees are known for their attractive borders, which are woven using silk threads. The sarees are usually woven from pure cotton, silk or a combination of cotton and silk. These sarees are also called ‘Kupadam’ and ‘Kumbam’ sarees.

Venkatagiri sarees: The Venkatagiri sarees woven in the state of Andhra Pradesh are quite popular. These sarees are usually made of cotton. Traditional motifs such as flowers, animals and birds are woven into these sarees using a combination of silk thread and cotton thread.

Chikan sarees: Chikan embroidered sarees produced in Lucknow are very famous all over India and even internationally. In this type of embroidery that is commonly known as Chikankari, different effects can be created using different types of thread and stitches. Initially, Chikan embroidery was done using white thread on muslin cloth that is opaque. However, in modern times, Chikankari is done using threads of different colors. Synthetic fabrics are also being used. Keeping in view the latest fashion trends, sequins and other decorative items are being used in Chikan sarees to give them a trendy look.

Paithani sarees: The Paithani saree is a saree woven in silk in the Paithan region in Maharashtra. These sarees usually have a plain or spotted body and a heavy golden border and pallu. Sometimes threads of two different colors are used in weaving the saree to create a special effect. Paithani sarees are generally available in traditional colors such as red, green, sky blue, magenta, purple, yellow and pink. The silk thread used in the production of these sarees is brought in from Bangalore.

Kota sarees: Kota sarees are sarees which are produced in Kota, Rajasthan. These sarees are also called ‘Kota Doria’. Initially, these sarees used to be produced in pure cotton, but now they are also prepared using synthetic yarn. The unique feature of a Kota saree is the checks formed in the saree while weaving. These checks are formed either using golden thread or ordinary thread. Usually, these sarees are manufactured in bright colors such as orange, yellow, red, blue, purple and green.

Calcutti sarees: Calcutta specializes in the production of pure cotton sarees. These sarees, popularly called Calcutti sarees, are famous all over India and even in other markets.

Bandhni sarees: Bandhni sarees are sarees that are produced mainly in the states of Gujarat and Rajasthan. They are also called ‘Bandhej’ sarees. These sarees are produced using the art of ‘tie and dye’. Bandhej work is generally undertaken on silk and cotton cloth. Mostly, natural and bright colors are used in these sarees. Tie and dye is carried out to form different patterns. The ‘Gharchola’ is a type of tie and dye saree produced in Gujarat and Rajasthan. This saree is traditionally used as a wedding saree.

Kanchipuram sarees: The Kanchipuram saree is a pure silk saree produced in the temple town of Kanchipuram in South India. The silk used in these sarees is manufactured in Karnataka, while the golden thread or jari used is brought from Surat. The best known patterns in Kanchipuram sarees are ‘Mayilkann’ (peacock’s eye), ‘Kuyilkann’ (nightingale’s eye), ‘Rudraksham’ (Rudraksha beads) and ‘Gopuram’ (temples). The designs in these sarees are generally inspired by nature and by the temples in the region. In an original Kanchipuram saree, the saree and the pallu are woven separately and are then stitched together.

Maheshwari sarees: The Maheshwari sarees are one of the types of sarees that are popular all over India and even internationally. These sarees were originally designed for the family and friends of Queen Ahilyabai Holkar, who ruled Indore in the state of Madhya Pradesh. The designs in these sarees were originally inspired by the designs on the walls of the Fort of Maheshwar. However, the patterns and colors used in these sarees are changing nowadays, keeping in view the changing trends.

Chanderi sarees: Chanderi sarees are produced in a small town called Chanderi in the state of Madhya Pradesh. They are woven using a combination of silk and cotton threads. These sarees usually have a thick golden border. The designs used in these sarees are based on hunting scenes, trees, men, women, birds, fruits, flowers and heavenly bodies. Generally, subtle colors are used in these sarees. Sometimes these sarees have golden buttis or golden checks all over the body.

Baluchari saree: The famous Baluchari sarees are produced in Baluchar in West Bengal. These sarees are made of figured silk, with designs brocaded on them. Typically, motifs of large flowers and shrubs are used in these sarees. Sometimes Indian mythological scenes are also patterned on these sarees.

Tanchoi sarees: Tanchoi sarees are produced in Surat in the state of Gujarat. Figures of birds, trees and flowers are commonly used in these sarees. Sometimes, the pallu is richly decorated with large figures of peacocks, flower baskets and hunting scenes. These sarees are made from a special fabric called Tanchoi, which is woven using a distinctive technique. This technique is a combination of the Indian and Chinese styles of weaving.

Ilkal sarees: The Ilkal saree is woven in the town Ilkal in Karnataka. Kasuti embroidery is done on these sarees, which is a special form of embroidery done in Karnataka. This type of embroidery is highly intricate. The typical embroidery patterns used in Ilkal sarees are chariots, lotuses, elephants, lamps, conch shells, palanquins, etc. This type of embroidery is done without knots so that both the sides of the fabric look the same. Ilkal sarees measure 9 yards in length. The end regions of the pallu are cut in different shapes. The colors that are traditionally used in these sarees are pomegranate red, parrot green and peacock blue. Bridal wear Ilkal sarees are made in a special color which is called ‘Giri Kumkum’ in that region. The red-colored pallu is a distinguishing feature of Ilkal sarees.

Jamdani sarees: Jamdani sarees are woven in Bangladesh. These sarees are made from a special type of cloth called Jamdani. This cloth is woven using a special technique, which is a combination of Bengali and Middle Eastern weaving techniques. In these sarees, patterns are woven using the same colored thread as the base cloth. Sometimes, gold and silver threads are also used for weaving patterns.

Mysore silk sarees: Mysore silk sarees are sarees that are made from a special type of silk that is produced in Mysore, Karnataka. These sarees are very light in weight and have a unique shine to them. In spite of being delicate, these sarees are highly durable. Mysore silk is one of the purest forms of silk.

Banarasi silk sarees: The silk sarees produced in Banaras, popularly known as Banarasi silk sarees, are famous the world over. In the city of Banaras, four types of sarees are mainly produced, i.e. pure silk sarees, the Shattir saree, the georgette saree and the organza saree. The pure silk Banarasi saree is the most famous of these. Sometimes, pure gold and silver threads are made use of in these sarees.

Mangalgiri sarees: Mangalgiri is a town located near Vijaywada in Andhra Pradesh. This town is famous for its sarees, which are popularly known as Mangalgiri sarees. Usually, these sarees have a golden border and are made from pure cotton. Mangalgiri is also famous for its cotton dress materials.


India is a country of diversities. Different parts of India are rich in different aspects. Most of the regions have their own special type of saree. The saree has been widely accepted as corporate wear in India. It is now in demand even in international markets. Different styles of wearing the saree are accepted in different parts of India.

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