Bhubaneswar: Until recently, you would hear the hum of the looms in several districts of Odisha known for their finest weaves. But, the looms have fallen silent following the lockdown imposed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The lockdown has severely affected livelihood of thousands of weavers across the state.
These handloom workers, who have worked at the looms for generations to eke out a living, have been hit hard as their economic activities have come to a standstill.
While they are not getting raw material to create products forcing them to sit idle, the handloom sector has experienced sudden stalling of orders as retailers have closed their shops due to the lockdown.
“The weavers could not receive raw material due to the lockdown. Besides, our products are not reaching to the markets. We are living in a bad condition,” said master weaver Surendra Meher of Barpali in the Bargarh district.
He said the state government should allow shops selling traditional weaving products like Saree, Gamcha, dhoti clothing, etc. to start operation only from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. daily with strict enforcement of social distancing norms.
Bijay Meher, General Secretary of All Odisha Weavers Association, said the shops selling cotton threads and other weaving related materials need to be allowed for the sustenance of the community, who completely depend on weaving.
“The government should consider opening the wholesale weaving product markets Balijuri Bazar of Bargarh. Thousands of weavers depend to sell products and manage their families on the market, which transacts in crores daily,” he said.
Meher said Balijuri Bazar is one of the largest handloom markets in the country.
Odisha has carved a niche in the global market for its handloom products.
Kotpad handloom fabric, Orissa Ikat, Khandua Saree, Gopalpur Tussar fabrics, Dhalapathar Parda and fabrics, Sambalpuri Bandha Saree, Bomkai Saree, Habaspuri Saree, Berhampur Patta (Phoda Kumbha) Saree and Joda have received the Geographical Indications (GI) tag.
Weavers in Bolangir, Sonepur and Khurda districts, who are known for producing beautiful sarees and dress materials, are waiting for assistance from the government to feed their families.
“We have no lands to grow crops to earn our livelihood during this crucial time. For generations, we have been weaving sarees, towels and other dress materials. But the coronavirus and lockdown forced us to sit idle affecting our livelihood. Now, only government assistance can help us,” said a weaver from Sonepur.