Berhampur nicknamed as the silk city is one of the oldest and largest cities of Odisha famous for its pure silk saris with unique â€˜Kalashâ€™ designs despite of good demand throughout Odisha, the production level of Berhampuri silk saris is declining fast as the silk sari weavers are gradually leaving the traditional occupation owing to less income.
According to silk weaver, cleaning silk threads, dyeing and then weaving, it takes a week to make one silk sari. Four members in the family work together for the whole week but earns only Rs 2,000. Owing to this mere income, there are forced to leave this profession.
In order to install the Dobi machine used for weaving, the weavers have to make a one foot deep and two feet wide hole on the floor. It is not a problem for the weavers who work at their own houses but those living in rented rooms are not allowed to make the hole. This is also a reason many weavers are leaving the occupation.
Some weavers have been provided with Interlock Silai Standing machines by the government but maintenance of these machines gives them a headache. K. Tulsi Rao who has received this facility shares his experience saying that they need to be very careful while working on these machines and if there is any problem in the machine, repairing takes a lot of time.
According to K. Bhima Raju, Secretary, Berhampur Pata Handloom Weaverâ€™s Welfare Association, 80 percent of the weavers in the city live in rented houses and there has been no increase seen in their wages since years. This has directly affected the rate of production of the saris.
Ten year ago, silk saris worth R. 1.5 crore were annually produced in the city but now it has come down to 25-30 lakh.
Raju said that the weavers should be provided with housing facilities, old age pensions and increment of wages. They have put up their demands before the textile department several times and also urged the government to focus its attention on the weavers' community, or else the Berhampuri silk sari will soon go extinct.
The weavers of Berhampur complain they are being compelled to leave the occupation as no government schemes are introduced to promote the weavers community nor any thing is done to retain the traditional occupation of weaving silk sari. Ten years back, there were around 304 silk sari weavers in the city but now the number has reduced to 45.
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