Dr. Sheela Suryanarayanan, Associate Professor at the University of Hyderabad along with her research team is contributing to the Handloom sector in innovative ways. With the financial support of IoE (Institute of Eminence), University of Hyderabad, crucial service needs will be identified in smaller handloom clusters to enhance the lives of the weavers and allied workers. The aim is to geo-code the handloom households using the GIS (Geographic Information System) software and apply cluster analysis to identify the community needs of smaller clusters.
Dr. Sheela Suryanarayanan along with her research team toured Yadadri Bhuvanagiri, Wanaparthy, Jogulamba Gadwal, Mahbubnagar and Narayanpet districts in Telangana State, talked to handloom workers in remote villages where transport facilities are limited, to collect household and individual information on handloom workers. Some of these are remote areas with low transportation access. Information on occupational health status of handloom workers, women’s empowerment and marketing has been collected and will be analysed with an aim to provide policy inputs. Dr. Sheela Suryanarayanan is also involved in a similar project in Mizoram State to enhance the lives of handloom workers.
Women are working full-time in the handloom sector, shoulder-to shoulder with men despite spending additional hours on household work. Several women are also weavers, although most are allied workers. Men say “without women we cannot do any work”. The Handloom workers experience a range of occupation health problems and the kind of health issues differs from cluster to cluster, based on the work they are involved in. They lack specific health insurance.
Several looms have not been geo-indexed and some are not identified as handloom workers although they are currently involved in handloom activities. Marketing hurdles and the highly unaffordable price of silk yarn and other raw materials has kept the handloom workers at lower income levels and dependent on master weavers or cooperatives. While some SFURTI (Scheme of Fund for Regeneration of Traditional Industries) programs have done very well, some are struggling to make an impact. A boost to smaller clusters as well is important to keep the sector alive and thriving. The project aims to suggest health care policy changes to the Central and State Government for enhancing the Handloom sector.
A forthcoming workshop on 2nd and 4th of November 2023 at the University of Hyderabad will cover the prospect and potential of the Handloom Sector in India with a special reference to Telangana. Weavers, Master weavers and Sfurti program managers from Telangana State will join the workshop and share their experience. There will also be a fair for those who would like to buy handloom gifts or clothes, are welcome to visit the fair to buy directly from the weavers.