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Economics of Handloom Weaving: A Field Study in Andhra Pradesh

Based on fieldwork, this paper examines the problems and prospects of the handloom sector in Andhra Pradesh. One major finding is that the growth performance of cooperatives determines the growth of other institutions - the master weavers, middle men and independent weavers. Well-performing cooperatives are the best safeguard for the handloom sector, as they protect the weaver and also provide a counterbalance to the master weaver. Competition from powerlooms is an obvious threat, but this can be countered if the sector produces high value, unique (brand value) products or medium value products which can be marketed locally or abroad, as distinct from powerloom products.

SPECIAL ARTICLEEconomic & Political Weekly EPW may 24, 200843Economics of Handloom Weaving: A Field Study in Andhra PradeshS Mahendra Dev, S Galab, P Prudhvikar Reddy, Soumya VinayanBased on fieldwork, this paper examines the problems and prospects of the handloom sector in AndhraPradesh. One major finding is that the growth performance of cooperatives determines the growth of other institutions – the master weavers, middle men and independent weavers. Well-performing cooperatives are the best safeguard for the handloom sector, as they protect the weaver and also provide a counterbalance to the master weaver. Competition from powerlooms is an obvious threat, but this can be countered if the sector produces high value, unique (brand value) products or medium value products which can be marketed locally or abroad, as distinct from powerloom products.The economics of handloom weaving is shrouded in a web of contradictions between subjective perceptions and ob-jective realities. For policymakers, handloom weaving is a holy cow, too reminiscent of nationalist ideals to be rejected. At the same time, it is seen as inherently unviable in competi-tion with the modern sector, and while many policy statements were made to support the handloom sector after independence, these have not been implemented with any degree of success. After liberalisation, textile policy is more openly slanted towards higher productivity (the powerloom sector) and export potential, implicitly relegating the handloom sector to a secondary status. The more widespread perception is that handloom weaving is an activity in deep crisis, caught in a vicious circle of low productiv-ity and wages unable to retain a competitive edge in the face of competition from powerlooms, rising costs of inputs and produc-tion, shrinking markets and lack of adequate state support. This, in fact, is the perception of the various stakeholders in handloom weaving itself. Yet, at the macro level, the handloom sector has maintained a steady 20 to 25 per cent share of total textile pro-duction, notwithstanding the increase in the number of power-looms across the country. Thus, while the secondary data also indicate a decline in the number of looms and workers between 1985-86 and 1995-96 (Census of Handlooms), it would seem that output has not been affected. 1 IntroductionIn order to reconcile the questions, that arise out of these contra-dictory perceptions and secondary information, this study tries to analyse the present situation of the handloom sector in Andhra Pradesh (AP). The state has always been a major producer of handloom textiles, and has the second highest number of looms and workers among all the states, next only to West Bengal. Yet, though the powerloom sector is relatively small in the state accounting only for about 2.8 per cent of the total powerlooms in the country, the handloom weavers themselves feel that they are in an activity, that is in crisis, for the same reasons mentioned above. Cases of suicides among weavers in the last few years strengthen this perception. This paper therefore sets out to find out whether handloom weaving is facing a crisis, if it is, is it uniform across all handloom centres in the state and what, if any, is the impact of powerlooms on handloom weaving.1.1 SampleDesignThe study adopts a four stage stratified purposive sampling design. Districts and clusters (group of villages where there is S Mahendra Dev (, S Galab, P Prudhvikar Reddy and Soumya Vinayan are at the Centre for Economic and Social Studies, Hyderabad.
SPECIAL ARTICLEmay 24, 2008 EPW Economic & Political Weekly44concentration of handloom weaving) form the first and second stage; weavers and institutions form the third and fourth stage. The districts have been selected from the five agro-climatic re-gions of the state – north and south coastal Andhra, north and south Telangana and Rayalaseema – on the basis of the maxi-mum and smallest decline in loomage between 1987 and 1995. From north coastal Andhra, Vijayanagaram, which had the high-est decline, and Visakhapatnam that shows an actual increase in loomage have been chosen. In south coastal Andhra, Prakasham, Guntur and Krishna districts have been selected on the basis of decline in loomage. In Rayalaseema, the worst affected districts in terms of loomage – Chittoor and Cuddapah – have been in-cluded in the sample. In the Telangana region, besides Karim-nagar, which accounts for 34 per cent of total powerlooms in the state, Medak and Nalgonda districts, which have also experi-enced a decline in loomage, have been chosen. From each district, one handloom cluster has been selected for fieldwork. The criteria used for the selection of clusters include product diversification, existence of different institutional structures and the extent of linkages of the cooperative societies with the Andhra Pradesh Handloom Weavers’ Cooperative Society (APCO). The villages in the cluster were selected on the basis of discussions with the officials of the office of the ad-ditional director, handlooms and textiles department in the respective districts and the key informants. Apart from the main village in which the cluster was situated, three surrounding villages were selected – one with a good society preferably with shed weavers, a second village with a bad cooperative not less than 10 km from the main village and a third village which is preferably beyond 10 km from the cluster (to capture the impact, if any, of middlemen).1 In addition, information was also collected from the key informants (weavers, coopera-tives, master weavers and middlemen) on the various institutional structures and working systems, and three major products woven in these villages. 1.2 DataCollectionThe study adopts survey and non-survey methods. Sur-vey method includes administering of structured house-hold questionnaires to the selected sample of weavers. Focused group discussions and strategic interviews were conducted with various stakeholders: weavers both within and outside the cooperative fold and with inde-pendent weavers to collect first hand information about their working and living conditions; and with the stakeholders in the powerloom sector in these districts/clusters wherever they are in operation, to capture the working and living conditions of the weavers in the sector. Discussions were also held with officials and others involved in supply of inputs to the handlooms sector.2 Organisation of Handloom WeavingThe individual weaver, working from home with his own loom, continues to be the basic unit of production in handloom weaving. However, though there are a few independent weavers, production and marketing are generally organised under two institutional structures – cooperatives and master weavers. In some areas there are also a few middlemen who are generally promoted and controlled by the master weaver. This section assesses how these different institutional structures have grown and performed over time, and how their growth and performance have been influ-enced by both internal (management) and external (government policy, market conditions, competition from powerlooms) fac-tors. A longitudinal database is required to analyse the above is-sues. As this is not available for all the parameters, the analysis is based on the secondary data available and primary data collected through the survey conducted for this study. 2.1 Performance of Handloom CooperativesThe cooperative movement always had a strong base in Andhra Pradesh, even in the years prior to independence. The momen-tum of setting up more cooperatives continued till the 1980s, and the number rose to 2,115 by 1982-83. But since many of the cooper-atives were either defunct or running at a huge loss, as a remedial measure the government reorganised the cooperatives by a pro-cess of mergers and liquidation, bringing their number to 825 by the end of 1983. In all, 61 per cent of the societies were liquidated in the process. But, contrary to expectations, such arbitrary re-organisation, in fact, adversely affected even the viable societies. Even after this period there was a steady decline in the number of cooperatives in the state which came down to 755 by 2003-04 (GOAP). According to the latest information, as on March 31, 2005, only 540 of the 783 officially listed cooperative societies in AP were active (GOAP). The pattern was not uniform across the different regions of the state, and some regions actually show an increase in the number of societies. It must also be borne in mind that the fact that a society is officially listed does not mean that it is actually a functioning society. Table 1: Number of Idle and Active Members in the Sampled SocietiesDistrict BeginningPresent Active Idle Total % Idle Active Idle Total % IdleNarayanavanam WCS, Chittoor 1,000 0 1,000 0 35 137 172 79.65Kamalapur WCS, Karimnagar 600 600 1,200 50 420 190 610 31.15Maripallegudem WCS, Karimnagar 300 0 300 0 30 110 140 78.57Choutuppal WCS, Nalgonda 200 0 200 0 250 396 646 61.30Kuntlagudem WCS, Nalgonda 60 0 60 0 156 78 234 33.33Koyyalagudem WCS, Nalgonda 50 0 50 0 400 233 633 36.81Sivaji WCS, Prakasham 210 0 210 0 80 976 1,056 92.42Sri Venkateswara WCS, Prakasham 28 0 28 0 120 289 409 70.66Abhyudaya WCS, Prakasham 120 35 155 22.58 25 140 165 84.85Chirala WCS, Prakasham NA NA NA NA 160 690 850 81.18Sri Uma Maheswara WCS, Vijayanagaram 500 69 569 12.13 188 164 352 46.59Payakaraopeta WCS, Visakhapatnam 18 45 63 71.43 75 162 237 68.35Sri Sambamoorthi WCS, Visakhapatnam 60 0 60 0 150 29 179 16.20Polavaram WCS, Krishna 45 0 45 0 208 31 239 12.97Rayvaram WCS, Krishna NA NA NA NA 95 32 127 25.20Sri Ramalingeswara WCS, Krishna NA NA NA NA 20 94 114 82.46Saraswathi WCS, Guntur 340 60 400 15 47 92 139 66.19Harijana WCS, Guntur 120 0 120 0 80 76 156 48.72Jogipet WCS, Medak 1,000 0 1,000 0 150 1,125 1,275 88.24Upparpalli WCS, Kadapa 170 30 200 15 70 10 80 12.50Madhavaram WCS, Kadapa 170 0 170 0 30 24 54 44.44WCS= Weavers’ Cooperative Society, NA = not available.Source : Field survey.
SPECIAL ARTICLEEconomic & Political Weekly EPW may 24, 200845The number of weavers in the cooperatives has declined from 3,56,250 in 1985-86 to 1,32,291 by 2003-04, recording a decline of 63 per cent for the state (GOAP). There has been a decline across all the regions, varying from 46 per cent (south coastal) to 77 per cent (south Telangana). In Rayalaseema and south Telangana, where the number of societies increased, there has been a decline in member coverage. The mere fact that weavers continue to be enrolled in a society also cannot be taken to indicate the status of the cooperative. Most often weavers continue to be members on the rolls, but do not receive work from the society for long peri-ods of time. This has been observed in many of the sampled societies inAP. For instance, there are societies in Chittoor, Karimnagar, Prakasham, Nalgonda, Visakhapatnam, Krishna and Guntur where 60 per cent or more of the members are idle (Table 1, p 44). Weavers continue their membership in the hope that the societies may begin to improve.The performance of cooperative societies is reflected in the number of active looms as against total number of looms. As on March 31, 2005, of the 90,168 looms under cooperatives inAP, only 37 per cent were active, while nearly 63 per cent are dor-mant. Across the different regions the percentage of dormant looms ranged between 40 per cent (Rayalaseema) and 74 per cent (south Telangana) and 72 per cent and 74 per cent in the south coastal districts. In Prakasham (92 per cent), West Goda-vari (88 per cent), Khammam (84 per cent) and Nalgonda (81 per cent) districts the proportion of dormant looms was very high (GOAP). In the field sample, in the districts of Chittoor, Karimnagar, Prakasham, Nalgonda, Visakhapatnam, Krishna and Guntur there were societies where 60 per cent of the looms were idle (Table 2). These figures indicate the extent of underutilisation of capacity in the cooperative sector. This also makes it clear that an increase in the number of cooperatives and membership in societies (as indicated by some of the census data) cannot be considered positive indicators when a large percentage of looms continue to be idle. This only means that societies continue to exist and weavers continue to be members of these societies in spite of not being able to get work on a regular and continuous basis.Cooperative CoverageAnother indicator of the performance of the cooperative sector is its total output. The quantity of cloth produced in the cooperative sector in the state declined from 923.06 lakh metres in 1985-86 to 225.76 lakh metres in 2003-04, a 77.3 per cent decline. The de-cline was more pronounced after 1995. The extent of decline varied from 68 per cent (south coastal Andhra) to 79 per cent (Rayalaseema and north Telangana). The only exception was south Telangana, which showed an increase in output by 24 per cent. On the whole, with the exception of East Godavari, Praka-sham, Medak, Khammam and Nalgonda, all the dis-tricts in the state showed a decline in output in the co-operative sector. The decline was more than 90 per cent in Srikakulam, Vizianagaram, Krishna, West Go-davari, Anantapur, Cuddapah, Nellore, Nizamabad and Warangal districts (GOAP).The problems for the cooperative sector in AP begin with the apex society, or APCO, which has the sole responsibility of promoting and assisting the handloom weaving socie-ties in the state, especially in marketing the cloth pro-duced by the primary societies. In the initial years APCO functioned quite well, with sales reaching Rs 128.41 crore during 1992-93. But there has been a steady decline since then, and in 2000-01 the total sales of APCO amounted to only Rs 20.38 crore (data supplied by APCO). Internal factors, especially relating to management are clearly the main factors in the poor performance of APCO. The trends in terms of number of societies, number of members, number of looms and productivity indicate the decline in activity and cooperative coverage during the post-liberalisation period. It is evident that the cooperatives have failed to fulfil their basic responsibility of promoting and assist-ing handloom weaving in the state. Various internal and external factors have affected the performance of these institutions. Politicisation, lack of autonomy in functioning, financial and management problems, mismanagement of funds, weaver aliena-tion in decision-making, lack of infrastructure facilities and lack of skill development programmes are some of the internal factors contributing to the overall poor performance of these institutions. These findings come out of the field survey, as well as earlier studies [IRMA 1995; Mukund and Syamasundari 2001]. Handloom weaving also faces external problems such as hostile input and output market conditions. The non-availability in time of inputs like yarn and dyes and their rising cost have severely affected the cooperatives. The failure of APCO has led to piling up of stocks and the heavy dues pending for long periods of time and has further contributed to increasing sickness among cooperatives.Table 2: Loom Status in Sampled CooperativesDistrict BeginningPresent Active Idle Total % Idle Active Idle Total % IdleNarayanavanam WCS, Chittoor 1,000 0 1,000 0 35 137 172 79.65Kamalapur WCS, Karimnagar 600 600 1,200 50 420 190 610 31.15Maripallegudem WCS, Karimnagar 300 0 300 0 30 110 140 78.57Choutuppal WCS, Nalgonda 200 0 200 0 250 396 646 61.30Kuntlagudem WCS, Nalgonda 60 0 60 0 156 78 234 33.33Koyyalagudem WCS, Nalgonda 50 0 50 0 400 233 633 36.81Sivaji WCS, Prakasham 210 0 210 0 80 894 974 91.79Sri Venkateswara WCS, Prakasham 28 0 28 0 120 289 409 70.66Abhyudaya WCS, Prakasham 155 0 155 0 25 140 165 84.85Chirala WCS, Prakasham NA NA NA NA 160 690 850 81.18Sri Uma Maheswara WCS, Vijayanagaram 500 69 569 12.13 188 164 352 46.59Payakaraopeta WCS, Visakhapatnam 18 45 63 71.43 75 162 237 68.35Sri Sambamoorthi WCS, Visakhapatnam 60 0 60 0 150 29 179 16.20Polavaram WCS, Krishna 45 0 45 0 208 31 239 12.97Rayvaram WCS, Krishna NA NA NA NA 95 32 127 25.20Sri Ramalingeswara WCS, Krishna NA NA NA NA 20 94 114 82.46Saraswathi WCS, Guntur NA NA NA NA 47 92 139 66.19Harijana WCS, Guntur 80 0 80 0 40 NA 40 NA Jogipet WCS, Medak 950 NA NA NA NA NA NA NA Upparpalli WCS, Kadapa 170 30 200 15 70 10 80 12.50Madhavaram WCS, Kadapa 100 50 150 33.33 30 24 54 44.44WCS= Weavers’ Cooperative Society, NA = not available.Source : Field survey.
SPECIAL ARTICLEmay 24, 2008 EPW Economic & Political Weekly462.2 MasterWeaversSince there is no secondary data on master weavers, the assess-ment is based on the present survey based on the recall method. In order to examine the impact of policy changes, we have ob-tained data for the last two decades covering pre-reform (before 1985) and post-reform (1985 to 2004) periods. Our survey shows that nearly 50 per cent of the master weavers in the sample have been master weavers for the last two and half decades. There are cases of household weavers, weavers from the cooperative sector and independent weavers who have become master weavers. In-terestingly, changes are also taking place in the organisation of production by master weavers in terms of shifting from engaging weavers working from home to weaving sheds. This has obviously been resorted to in order to reduce the cost of production in view of the unfavourable policy environment and more particularly the threat from powerlooms. This indicates that master weavers are able to negotiate the negative effects of the shifts in policy, unlike cooperative societies in which mortality rates and the pro-portion of idle looms have increased over time and especially during the reform period. Master weavers have continuously been changing the product mix by shifting from general to specific textiles with brand name value, from saris to dress material and furnishings and thereby from low value products to high value products, and by fine-tuning their designs in re-sponse to the requirements of the consumers. Further, some of the master weavers are also purchasing finished products from other weavers and selling them at a profit that serves as an additional source of income.Unlike cooperatives, the managerial cost of master weavers was found to be very low, which is also one of the main reasons for their resilience. The master weavers are able to maintain their overall profitability despite a lower profit margin, by opti-mum use of fixed capital even in the prevalence of unfavourable input and output market conditions and stiff competition from powerlooms, which are the manifestations of the policy environment. Thus, the master weavers are able to sustain themselves by suitably responding to the internal and external factors that constrain their functioning. Recently, a new form of organisation of production has emerged. The master weavers employ middlemen or commission agents, who act as a bridge between the trader-cum-master weaver and the weaver, especially in remote villages in the cluster. This facilitates the master weavers to supervise more effectively as well as help the individual weaver avoid the transaction costs such as loss of produc-tive hours for travelling to the residence of the master weavers. The middlemen, however, siphon off a percentage of wages given by the master weaver as his commission or margin and pay the rest to the weaver.2.3 IndependentWeavers The Census of Handlooms for 1987-88 and 1995-96 shows that at the all-India level as well as in Andhra Pradesh, the proportion of independent weavers hasincreased by 6 per cent [Census of Handlooms 1987-88 and 1995-96]. Nonetheless, field level observations in the course of study reveal that inde-pendent weaving is highly seasonal in nature. During peak seasons such as festivals and marriages, the rela-tively better off weavers take up independent weaving to enhance their income through optimum use of family labour. Moreover, this quintessential form of organisation is not widespread across the districts as well.2.4 Performance of Institutional StructuresThe study has been designed to assess the economic performance of master weavers and independent weavers who are functioning alongside the good/bad cooperative societies, apart from making a comparative assessment of the two categories of cooperatives. Economic performance has been assessed in terms of cost of production for producing Rs 1,000 worth of output, the cost structure, net value added as percentage of value of output, Table 3: Cost Structure, Value Added and Profitability of Weaving Activity under Different Institutional Structures in the Sampled DistrictsDescription of the Parameters All Districts Well Functioning Poorly Functioning CooperativesCooperatives Cooper-MasterInde-Cooper-MasterInde- ativeWeaverpendentativeWeaverpendentA Weaver and loom details 1 Sample no of institutions 9 12 43 12 12 47 2 No of active weavers per institution 237.44 52.25 1.44 443.92 17.75 2.68 3 No of sample weavers under institution 125 118 43 109 85 47 4 Total weavers under institutions 2,137 627 62 5,327 213 126 5 Total no of looms under institution 2,440.01 670.74 78.92 5,105.04 312.07 207.64 6 Prop of HH weavers to total weavers 0.86 0.83 0 0.89 0.69 0B Cost of production to produce Rs 1,000 worth of output (in Rs per month) 1 Raw material 426.47 505.64 516.42 507.93 241.63 591.43 Per cent of operational cost 56.72 53.44 81.44 63.14 39.6 88.83 2 Wages 274.23 382.95 59.95 261.15 351.19 44.79 Per cent of operational cost 36.47 40.48 9.45 32.46 57.55 6.73 3 Interest on working capital 7.42 9.24 6.15 7.89 5.97 6.48 Per cent of operational cost 0.99 0.98 0.97 0.98 0.98 0.97 4 Other expenses 43.71 48.23 51.56 27.44 11.42 23.08 Per cent of operational cost 5.81 5.1 8.13 3.41 1.87 3.47 5 Administrative cost 0.06 0.01 6 Total operational cost per Rs 1,000 worth of output 751.82 946.07 634.07 804.41 610.21 665.78C Value added 1 Value of output (in Rs per month) 17,26,929 3,23,284.8 9,312.51 33,01,626 1,33,817 25,771.87 2 Net value added as % of output 52.6 45.12 43.2 46.61 74.67 38.55D Profitability 1 Fixed capital (in Rs) 9,19,634.4 83,315.3 8,372.13 8,42,065.5 23,006.322 4,034.75 2 Net income (in Rs per month) 4,34810.9 2,2052.73 3,464.97 6,76,667.4 52,924.17 8,780.36 3 Net profit ratio 0.7 0.48 0.69 0.59 1.24 0.58 4 Capital turnover ratio 0.53 0.26 0.9 0.26 0.17 0.93 5 Overall profitability 0.37 0.12 0.62 0.15 0.21 0.55 6 Income net of OP cost (in Rs per month) 4,46,236.7 24,429.43 3,584.29 6,97,440.2 53,881.53 9,073.84 7 Income net of raw material,interest on working capital, other expenses and depreciation (in Rs per month) 8,95,481.1 1,42,769.3 3,868.56 15,12,822 99,100.53 9,748.33Source: Field survey.
SPECIAL ARTICLEmay 24, 2008 EPW Economic & Political Weekly48non-powerloom districts, to 48.15 per cent in these three dis-tricts, without any increase in the contribution to the value of output. The net profit ratio correspondingly also came down from .90 to .78, as did overall profitability. The bad coopera-tives too are affected by the powerlooms, which is seen in the decrease in overall profitability. But, the cost of production has come down for these cooperative societies because there has been an increase in the contribution of labour to the value of production (field survey data). This indicates that the badly performing cooperatives have increased their efficiency in utilising labour to minimise the impact of powerlooms,though this might have caused distress to the weavers.3 Employment ChannelsThe ultimate test of the efficiency of production and marketing institutions in the handloom sector lies in the incomes earned by the weavers working under different institutional structures. Though some institutional agencies have responded to the chang-ing policy environment so as to sustain themselves the issue that needs to be examined is whether the effect of the negative policy framework has been transferred to the weavers, and how weav-ers have responded to ensure their level of earnings. More spe-cifically, this section addresses itself to the question of what factors influence the decisions of weavers on working for the co-operatives or master weavers, and between working from home (the putting out system) or in sheds? How do the wages, employ-ment and earnings of weavers differ across the institutions, and different working systems? To what extent are weavers able to access government programmes?The socio-economic characteristics of the weavers considered for the analysis include: age, gender, migrant status, type of residence, use of residence for weaving activity, the period of stay in the place of residence, fixed capital status, whether they have accessed government programmes, and poverty status. Older weavers are generally members of cooperatives. This is because they had become members in earlier years, whereas more recently there has been a restriction on membership for new entrants. A larger proportion of weavers in cooperatives have accessed government programmes, which benefit them, which is also one of the reasons why they continue their membership. However, the fact that a considerable proportion of weavers working with the master weavers could also access the government pro-grammes indicates that members of cooperatives also work with the master weavers.This is because the quantum of work provided by the coopera-tives is inadequate, which leads to underutilisation of capacity at two levels – at the general level, many looms under cooperatives are idle, and for the individual weaver, who does not get enough orders from the cooperative society to keep his loom working throughout the year. Despite this, the incidence of poverty is low among weavers who are with cooperatives. The relatively better access to modern technology (in terms of possession of frame looms, dobby, chain dobby and jacquard which enables product diversification and thus fetches better incomes) is probably a factor, which has enabled the weavers under cooperatives to escape from poverty (Table 4). Working for Master WeaversOn the other hand, though the economic status of the weavers working with the master weaver is relatively better in terms of possessing a “pucca” house that facilitates weaving at home, lower rate of decline in looms, lower underutilisation of looms and less unemployment, the incidence of poverty is higher among these weavers (Table 4). This indicates that the master weaver underpays the weavers, which is possible because the bargaining capacity of the weavers working with the master weaver is weak. This is partly due to the fact that among these weavers high pro-portion are migrants with relatively short duration of stay at the place of work who also depend on the master weaver for credit. This is true even in the case of non-migrant weavers, as they have to depend on the master weaver for work. Thus, it is evident that the weavers are more likely to work for master weavers when the cooperatives fail to provide adequate work for the member weavers. More-over, younger weavers have no choice but to work for master weavers, as their membership in cooperatives is restricted. The relatively younger age of the weavers working with the master weaver supports this in-ference (Table 4). The possibility of weavers keeping away from cooperatives and working for master weavers Table 4: Socio-economic Characteristics of the Weavers Working under Different Institutional Structures in the Sampled DistrictsDescription of the Socio-economic Characteristics of the Weavers All Districts Districts Where Only Districts Where Both Powerlooms Handlooms Exist and Handlooms Exist Cooper-Master Inde-Cooper-Master Inde-Cooper-Master Inde- ative Weaver pendent ative Weaver pendent ative Weaver pendentNo of sample households 236 245 119 133 192 85 103 53 34Average age of the weavers (in years) 48 42 46 45 42 48 53 42 41Percentage of migrant weavers 19 30 27 25 30 31 11 30 18Duration of stay at the present place (in years) 11 4 5 19 4 6 2 5 3Percentage of weavers possessing pucca house 32 36 32 47 40 27 13 21 44Percentage of weavers using house for weaving purpose 61 73 88 68 73 86 51 74 94Percentage of weavers possessing looms 74 74 98 80 73 98 65 75 100Percentage of weavers reporting decline in loomageovertime 21 10 12 23 11 14 18 4 6Percentage of weavers reporting possessing of dobby, Jacquard and chain dobby 1 0 2 0 0 2 2 0 0Percentage of weavers reporting frame looms 30 10 9 17 12 13 48 2 0Percentage of weavers accessing government programmes 90 42 43 86 39 38 94 53 56Percentage of weavers reporting unemployment 71 67 68 61 64 67 83 79 71Percentage of weavers reporting underutilisation of looms 6 5 8 4 4 2 8 9 21Percentage of weavers reporting underutilisation of looms 4 8 9 4 4 6 5 21 18Percentage of BPL weavers 58 62 11 43 70 15 64 32 0Percentage of weavers reporting dependency for credit on master weaver 0 11 0 0 6 0 0 26 0Source: Field survey.
SPECIAL ARTICLEEconomic & Political Weekly EPW may 24, 200849increases in the sample sites where handlooms and powerlooms coexist. The higher proportion of weavers under master weavers who are accessing government programmes in the sample power-loom districts corroborates this observation. The incidence of pov-erty among weavers working for the master weaver is lower, and indicates that the master weaver has to pay a higher and more competitive wage to the workers in order to attract them from the powerlooms. In general, powerlooms have adversely affected the handloom cooperatives where both coexist, directly and indirectly (Table 4). The direct adverse impact is seen in sites like Chittoor, where the powerlooms produce the same textiles as the coopera-tives. The indirect impact of powerlooms on the cooperatives is through attracting younger generation weavers (who are not members of cooperatives) by offering higher wages and by pro-moting the putting out system which enables even middle-aged men and women to work from home, thereby leaving no weaver to work on handlooms in the long run. But the strong cooperatives which are producing high value, distinctive textiles with brand identification, which are different from those produced by power-looms could retain their competitive edge, as can be seen in the case of cooperatives in Nalgonda. On the other hand, the coopera-tives, which are producing low value products even though they are not produced by powerloom sector could not face even indi-rect competition from the powerloom sector, as has been the ex-perience in Karimnagar. Our field survey has also reported that household powerloom weavers are producing textiles similar to those produced by the cooperatives, though these were not covered in our samples. This indicates that proper enforcement of the Handloom Reservation Act would clearly protect and ben-efit the handloom sector.Work ChoicesWeavers generally prefer not to work for master weavers in places where the cooperatives are strong. They choose to take up work under master weavers only when they perceive that they can be better off by this, which is quite clear from the dis-aggregated field data. On the other hand, the relatively better-off among the weavers opt to be independent in production and marketing arrangements. This is clearly evident from the high proportion of weavers among the independent weavers who possess looms and undertake weaving at home and the low incidence of poverty among them as compared to weavers working under other institutional structures. The poorest class of weavers who are predominantly homeless, without looms and below the poverty line work in sheds (Table 4). This is very noticeable in the sample sites where the handloom and power-loom sectors coexist. The above analysis clearly indicates that the restrictions on new members and providing insufficient work for the current members have encouraged some members of the cooperatives to take up work under master weavers. But, at the same time, weav-ers working for master weavers seem to be in a disadvantageous position due to their weak bargaining power as well as lack of adequate work. It is also clear that all the weavers of cooperatives are not turning to master weavers and at the same time all the weavers under master weavers are not in cooperatives, in spite of the disadvantages they face with master weavers. There are thus a variety of work choices made by the weavers about taking up work either with the cooperatives or under master weavers. Some may be working for both simultaneously and some may be com-pletely changing from cooperative to master weaver and vice versa. The same may be true in case of working systems. A com-parison has been made of the socio-economic characteristics of the two groups of weavers – those who have changed their insti-tutions/working system; and those who have not – to identify the factors contributing to their choices; and the changes have been captured over time, covering the pre-policy reforms as well as post-policy reform periods to assess broadly the impact of policies on these changes. 3.1 Shifts in Employment PatternsThe field survey shows that the proportion of weavers changing their employers as well as working systems has been increasing over time (Table 5). The rate of change has accelerated in the post-reform period (1985-2005), leading to the inference that reforms have been a contributory factor. The fact that a higher proportion of weavers have shifted to a different employer or to adifferent working systems in the sample sites where both handloom and powerloom weaving is carried on, as compared to areas where only handloom weaving exists strengthens this inference (Table 5). It is also interesting to note that the weavers are changing not only from cooperatives to master weavers but also from master weavers to cooperatives. This indicates that re-forms have affected not only the cooperatives but also the master Table 5: Changing Employment Choices of Weavers Over Time in Sampled DistrictsDescriptionofChangeofParticipation ChangesoverTime of Weavers All Districts Districts Where Only Handlooms Exist Districts Where Both Powerlooms and Handlooms Exist Before 1985-1990-1996-After AllBefore 1985-1990-1996-After AllBefore 1985-1990-1996-After All 1985 89 95 99 2000 Periods1985 89 95 99 2000 Periods1985 89 95 99 2000PeriodsA Samplehousehold 694 694 694 694 694 694 488 488 488 488 488 488 206 206 206 206 206 206B Reporting household 25 35 61 36 101 258 12 28 42 33 59 174 13 7 19 3 42 84C Distribution of households according tochange(%) NotAvailable 1 Independent to master weaver 4 3 7 22 8 9 0 4 10 21 12 11 8 0 0 33 2 4 2 Independent to cooperatives 8 9 10 8 21 14 17 11 12 6 20 14 0 0 5 33 21 13 3 Master weaver to independent 20 9 11 6 14 12 33 11 14 6 12 13 8 0 5 0 17 11 4 Master weaver to cooperatives 0 6 23 44 36 26 0 7 29 45 42 31 0 0 11 33 26 17 5 Cooperatives to independent 28 54 13 3 6 16 17 57 17 3 3 16 38 43 5 0 10 15 6 Cooperatives to master weaver 28 6 21 11 9 14 17 4 7 12 7 8 38 14 53 0 12 25Source: Field survey.
SPECIAL ARTICLEmay 24, 2008 EPW Economic & Political Weekly50weavers. In general, weavers who are poor with low bargaining capacity continue to stay with the same employer and working systems. But, weavers who are relatively better off are able to adopt a flexible strategy of changing employers and working systems. Weavers are more inclined to shift to cooperatives from other employers where the cooperatives are working well. Equally, they move away from cooperatives wherever they are weak. The shifts in employment choices of weavers are frequent in the sample sites where the cooperatives are weak and are highly pronounced at two points of time, i e, 1990-95 and after 2000. These are the two periods of policy reform regimes of trade liber-alisation and public disinvestment, which have indirectly affect-ed the handloom sector also.4 Earnings of Weavers The average monthly income of weavers is generally lower when they work for cooperatives as compared to master weavers and also of the independent weavers.2 But weavers who are taking up work under the putting out system are earning a higher income as compared to their weavers who work in sheds under all employers. The lowest income is, thus, in the sheds (Table 6, p 51). Interestingly, the middlemen is ensuring more incomes to the weavers working in sheds as compared to weavers working in sheds in cooperatives, which are found in Visakhapatnam, Guntur, Karimnagar and Medak. This is because, except in Guntur, the societies in the other districts primarily produce low value fabrics when compared to the middlemen. It should also be noted that master weavers and middlemen are sometimes independent of each other, and that middlemen invariably do not work for the local master weaver. The monthly income of the household weaver working under a cooperative ranges from Rs 585 in Karimnagar to Rs 4,121 in Nalgonda. For shed weavers, it ranges between Rs 448 in Medak and Rs 2,398 in Guntur. The incomes of household weavers under master weavers range from Rs 856 in Medak to Rs 3,582 in Nalgonda while among shed weavers the figures range between Rs 827 in Medak and Rs 2,017 in Guntur. The incomes are higher for the weavers who are involved in the production of high value products irrespective of the employer and working systems. The presence of stronger cooperatives has contributed to rela-tively higher wages under master weavers also, given the composition of products produced, which can be seen in Krishna and Guntur (field survey). As a broad generalisation, it can be stated that the wage rates under master weavers are lower than in cooperatives. This indicates that the weavers under master weaver have to work for more hours/days than weavers under cooperatives for getting the same level of income (Table 6). This has also been corroborated by the key informants in the districts and the weaversduringfocused group discussions. Interestingly, the presence of powerlooms has contributed to a rise in the wages of handloom weavers. Weavers working from home under the putting out system get higher wages than weavers working in sheds under the master weaver, but they have to bear the GUJARAT VIDYAPEETH: AHMEDABAD - 380 014Advt. No. 1/2008-2009 Gujarat Vidyapeeth is a deemed University establishedby Mahatma Gandhi in 1920. It has a Library with a collection of more than 5,00,000 titles. It supports the University and also the general public in the city of Ahmedabad and people in Gujarat. It is also a publiclibrary. We are looking for a dynamic Librarian who is well qualified and has very good professional and leadership qualities. She/he should also be a good teacher and a researcher. The University has a postgraduate teaching programme in Library Science. Applications in prescribed from are invited for the post of Librarian in the pay scale of Rs. 16,400-22,400. Deserving candidate will be offered higher start in the approved UGC scale for a Professor. In case of senior persons, advance increments might be considered over and above protecting the current salary drawn. Details regarding minimum qualifications and experience etc. are available on web site.Application form is available from the Central Office, Gujarat Vidyapeeth, Ashram Road, Ahmedabad - 380014, on payment of Rs. 50/-in cash or demand draft drawn in favour of “Registrar, Gujarat Vidyapeeth, Ahmedabad” along with a self-addressed and stamped envelope (23”x10”) worth Rs. 5/-. Application form can also be downloadedfrom the web; and the filled in application form should be sent to the Registrar with a demand draft in favour of “Registrar, Gujarat Vidyapeeth” for Rs. 50/-. Hard copies of application form dulyfilled should reach by registered poston or before16th June, 2008 along with all certified copies. Soft copy may be mailed at Place : Ahmedabad (Rajendra Khimani)Date : 10-05-2008 Registrar
SPECIAL ARTICLEEconomic & Political Weekly EPW may 24, 200851Table 6: Incomes of Weaver Households under Different Institutional Arrangements and Working Systems (All Districts) Description of Variables Total Family Income Cooperative Society Master Weaver Middle Men Inde- HH Shed HH ShedHH Shedpendenta Income from weaving (Rs per month) 1,995.77 1,190.76 2,033.63 1,286.85 1,871.17 1,549.57 2,591.16b Income from other source (Rs per month) 410.50 396.69 183.00 160.16 107.69 212.07 275.71c Total Income (Rs per month) 2,406.27 1,587.44 2,216.63 1,447.00 1,978.86 1,761.64 2,886.87d Proportion of income from weaving 0.86 0.69 0.92 0.89 0.97 0.93 0.87e Percentage above poverty line 56.88 37.14 58.33 36.21 52.31 48.28 60.17f Percentage below poverty line 43.13 62.86 41.67 63.79 47.69 51.72 39.83g Wage rate per day (Rs per month) 49.98 47.77 47.60 34.84 42.13 29.54 84.21h Work available days in last month 29.51 26.97 30.41 33.31 31.13 34.47 29.57i Active working days in last month 26.66 23.95 27.37 30.00 27.40 30.53 27.64j Proportion of active working days 0.91 0.90 0.90 0.90 0.88 0.88 0.94Source: Field survey.Notes1 A good society has been defined as one with 50 per cent or more members working whereas a bad society is one with more than 50 per cent of the members inactive. This classification is in con-formity with the perceptions of the weavers. It should be noted here that though 28 cooperative societies were covered, weavers could be canvassed only in 21 societies because the other cooperatives were not functioning.2 For weavers working under cooperatives and mas-ter weavers, the wages they get for the product woven is considered as their income after deducting wages for hired labour for weaving and pre-loom processes, if any in addition to income from other sources. For further analysis, we have deducted other expenses (such as repair and maintenance of machinery) and depreciation from this income. For independent weavers, we have arrived at their income after deducting all costs – cost of raw mate-rials, other expenses, and cost of hired labour both for pre-loom processing as well as weaving – from the value of output. Another of variant income is also calculated which is net of health cost in total income after depreciation.3 This inference is based on sample weavers only. This has not been estimated for the entire weavers in the state and hence should not be generalised.ReferencesGovernment of Andhra Pradesh:Annual State Administrative Report, reports from 1977 to 2005, Directorate of Handlooms and Textiles, Hyderabad.IRMA (1995): ‘A Study on Problems of Weavers’ Coop-eratives in Andhra Pradesh’, report submitted to NABARD, Anand, IRMA.Mukund, Kanakalatha and B Syamasundari (2001): Traditional Industry in the New Market Economy – The Cotton Handlooms of Andhra Pradesh, Sage Publications, New Delhi.NCAER: Census of Handlooms in India 1987-88, National Council for Applied Economic Research, New Delhi. – (2004):Joint Census of Handlooms and Power-looms 1995-96, National Council for Applied Economic Research, New Delhi.depreciation and maintenance cost of their looms and accesso-ries, which cuts into their wages. Weavers also report that health hazards are very high in weaving, and as a result, ex-penditure on healthcare accounts for a considerable proportion of their income. The in-come net of the health-care cost leaves only a very small amount for the weaver to meet other needs. This is one of the main reasons why there is high incidence of pov-erty among the weavers, and especially among weavers working in sheds. The percentage of weavers below poverty line ranges between 52 and 64 per cent in the shed weaving and be-tween 42 and 48 per cent for household weavers under different employers.3 This is also the reason why some of them commit suicide. Though many weaver families have been trying to augment their in-come by taking up other activities, this has not enabled most of them to move above the poverty line.5 ConclusionsThis study based on extensive fieldwork indicates that though handloom weaving has many strengths and can be competitive under specific conditions, the seeds of crisis are inherent in the sector. These can be traced to two major factors – the poor per-formance of the cooperative sector, and the poor economic condi-tion of the weavers. It is clear that the two major institutional structures in handloom weaving, viz, cooperatives and master weavers, are closely interrelated, as is their growth performance. A good performing cooperative is the best safeguard for the handloom sector, as this protects the weaver and also provides a counterbalance to the master weaver. The economic condition of the weaver is the other point of crisis. The average income of a weaver is rarely more than Rs 50 per day. While it is true that becoming an independent weaver would give better returns, the large difference in the average earnings of independent weavers across the districts (Table 6) clearly shows that only those who are already quite well placed can be independent of the other institutional structures. Wages are lower and the incidence of poverty higher for weavers under themaster weaver. But, the weavers are paid wellwhere the co-operatives are strong and provide adequate work for the weavers.In general, weavers also prefer the co-operatives to the master weaver, if the cooperatives are strong. So, the best way to regu-late the function-ing of master weavers is to strengthen the functioning of the cooperatives, and the master weaver can complement the cooperatives in providing work to the weavers.Competition from powerlooms is obviously a major threat, but,this can be countered when the sector produce high value, distinctive(brand value) products or medium value products which can be marketed locally or abroad that are different from powerloom products. If the provisions of protective legislation like the Handloom Reservation Act and Hank Yarn Obligation Order are implemented, it would help strengthen the handloom sector. In addition, setting up of decentralised spinning mills and reeling units or opening of yarn depots by the NHDC within hand-loom clusters would enable in overcoming the scarcity of yarn as well as arrest the resultant spiralling of prices of hank yarn. In the current policy environment, however, the focus of the initia-tives should be to improve the functioning of the sector, espe-cially the cooperatives. Lessons learnt from the management practices of the good cooperatives, especially to improve market-ing through better designs and product diversification, accessing multiple market channels and accessing working capital from formal institutions would improve the performance of the coop-eratives and benefit handloom weavers as a whole.

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