THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Over the years, the Directorate of Handloom and Textiles has been grappling with a simple question: How to revive the glorious past of weaving in God’s Own Country?
It was considered a Herculean task, given the growth of the organised textile industry, which emerged as a key player in the country’s post-Independence history.
This was despite the fact that handloom fabrics were considered as an integral part of the rich culture and heritage of the country down the decades, and appreciated the world over for their colour, texture and design. However, there are reasons to cheer as Kerala is the only state in India that supplies its own handloom products woven by traditional artisans in energy efficient looms.
Handlooms and Textiles director K Sudhir said that Kerala is the only state in the country that provides free 100 per cent handloom uniforms to students in government schools. Whereas, other states are still supplying powerloom uniforms to students, he said. He said weavers’ cooperative societies registered under the Directorate of Handlooms and Textiles have produced around 33 lakh metres of fabric, which will be distributed to students in classes up to VII for the next academic year.
“But the state requires only 23 lakh metres of shirting, suiting and skirting for about 4.5 lakh students in government schools in the coming academic year,” he said. “What’s more interesting is that the Directorate of Handlooms and Textiles could bring around 4,000 weavers under the government scheme, which envisages the strengthening of the handloom sector in the state.” “And the department is planning to raise the number of weavers and their looms to 6,000-7,500 in a couple of years so that the government can supply free handloom uniforms to students in aided schools as well,” he said.
It has been estimated that around 75,000 weavers and non-weavers were once engaged in the traditional sector in the state, which aids environment conservation through low carbon emissions and low energy demand. Now, the figure has come down to 25,000-30,000 weavers, including those engaged in the private sector.
Since the new government scheme envisages around 300 working days for weavers engaged in the craft and offers an average wage of Rs 450 per day, which could increase to Rs 600-700 when production incentives are added, there is really a rejuvenation in the traditional handloom sector, said officials engaged in the sector.
R Ramesh Chandran, the general manager of the District Industrial Centre in Thiruvananthapuram, which employs the largest number of looms under the scheme in the state, said the district could achieve around 170 per cent of its target.
Around 1,860 looms registered with 138 weaving societies could make around 11.82 lakh metres of fabric for the coming academic year, he said. The department will send the fabrics to government schools in the first week of May after the customary testing processes, which include inspection of the production process, certifying the product as a genuine handloom one with reference to the yarn used, the texture and dimension of the fabric, the dye used and so on.
According to Sudhir, the state government also has plans to revive its Kerala Handloom brand in the event of the success of the handloom uniform project by bringing more value addition to its products and good marketing.