Monday, May 20, 2024

Hard Times

One of the weaving hubs of the country in Sirajganj, is in dire straits due to the lack of policy support from the government. Dull business spread a pall of anxiety over the future of the 15 lakh people dependent on this weaving industry in the district.
Eight upazilas of Sirajganj district are famous for independent weaving units for a long time. They are Belkuchi, Shahzadpur, Chowhali, Ullapara, Kamarkhanda, Sirajganj Sadar, Kazipur and Raiganj. According to Bangladesh Tant Board officials, there are about two lakh weaving factories in these eight upazilas. Of them, about 1.35 lakh are handlooms while the rest are powerlooms. About three lakh people work in the handloom factories, while about one lakh work in the powerloom units. About 15 lakh people, directly and indirectly, are dependent on the weaving industry.
Weavers in Sirajganj mainly devote themselves to weaving saris, lungis and gaamchhas (locally made towels). These products are supplied to different parts of the district and also exported to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Burma, Malaysia and Germany.
Sources said local weavers have added modern technology to their traditional craft to increase production. Local weavers have been doing brisk business due to easy availability of raw materials, such as dye and yarn, reasonable prices of such materials and good communication facility. However, of late, the weaver community is facing quite a few problems. Continuous political turmoil and a hike in the prices of raw materials have presented some irksome problems hindering the workings of the weaving industry.
The sources also said that weavers in Sirajganj used to earn around Tk. 100 crore per week, but the figure has taken a nosedive to Tk. 20-25 crore a week due to the recent political troubles.
Suroj Mian, owner of a weaving factory in Chhatiantoli village under Sirajganj Sadar upazia, said, “I had 50 weaving machines, but I closed 15 of them as I can’t procure necessary raw materials from the market due to continuous political turmoil. For the same reason, I can’t even supply my products to the market on a regular basis.” Frequent hartals and blockade programmes have now put weavers in a precarious position, he added.
Fakir Chand, a handloom worker of the same area, said that his family members are passing their days in misery as he, the only bread-earner of the lot, has not been getting regular wages due to a drastic fall in sales during the recent political unrest. He also said that his co-workers are facing the same consequences.
Mozammel Haque, president of the Paikosha Primary Handloom Association, said that a large number of people are dependent on the weaving industry of the district. “But the weaving sector is about to loss its glory. Many people are leaving their professions after incurring frequent losses,” he added.
He said a bell (10 bundles) of cotton is now being sold for Tk. 45,000 in the market, while the same amount of cotton was sold at Tk. 24,000 about two years back. A section of unscrupulous spinning mills owners have created a syndicate that has increased the price of yarn, he alleged.
He also said, a tola of dye is now being sold for Tk. 80 to Tk. 100 at different markets, against the price of Tk. 27 to Tk. 30 two years back.
Similarly, the price of a handloom or pitloom machine was around at Tk. 8,000 about two years ago. It has increased to Tk. 16,000 to Tk. 18,000. The price of a powerloom machine was around Tk. 45,000 about two years back, but it is now being sold for Tk 1.90 lakh. The prices of all necessary raw materials for weaving industries have increased two-fold or more in the recent years.
Belal Hossain, president of the Belkuch Municipality Ward No-9 Primary Handloom Association, Asadul Alam, president of the Bohuli Union Ward No-1 Primary Handloom Association, and Yunus Ali, president of the Dowlatpur Union Ward No-1 Primary Handloom Association, said that the government or non-government organisations have not taken sufficient initiatives to protect local weavers. The government is not even aware of the problems, they added.
During a recent visit to different weaving factories in the district, this correspondent found most of the handloom units to be overcrowded, with inadequate accommodation facility for workers and machines. Most of these factories have insufficient hygienic sanitation facilities. The weavers work amid cotton dusts, loud sound, dye chemicals, ill-ventilation and insufficient lighting.
Sultan Mahmud, liaison officer of the Bangladesh Tant (Handloom) Board, Basic Centre, Mirpur, Sirajganj office, said that his department has started to work for the welfare of small and marginal weavers in the district since 1998. At present, they are covering four upazilas, namely Sirajganj Sadar, Belkuchi, Kazipur and Kamarkhanda. But, their activities are severely constrained due to lack of manpower, he confessed.
“We try to unite weavers by forming ward-level associations. We also provide loans to small and marginal weavers to expand their businesses. We’ve already distributed Tk. 4.73 crore among 2,242 weavers in the four upazilas. But the effort is insufficient against the huge demand,” said Sultan Mahmud.
He added that more government funds would help release the weavers from the vicious cycle of poverty.
Handloom sector in Bangladesh consists of more than 0.505 million Handlooms and 1.0 million Handloom weavers. But only 0.3 million looms are active (59 per cent of existed looms) and that provides around 620 million meters of fabric (about 40 per cent total demand of the population) annually. About more than 1.5 million people are directly and indirectly involved for their livelihood.
Handloom industry is the biggest handicraft industry in our country; it is the second largest source of rural employment after agriculture. The knowledge and skills needed for this sector transformed from their forefathers. Thus, the cottage-based industry has been build up by inheritance. Handloom fabric is more producer-driven than buyer-driven.
Handloom products are best known for their eco-friendly nature. The world is solely concentrating on ‘green technology’, therefore ‘green products’ and ‘social business concept’ to save the struggling world, where ‘Handloom technology’ could be best ‘green technology’ to fulfill basic needs of human i.e., clothing.
The Handloom sector has a great deal of potential for further value addition in the RMG sector for further meeting local needs of fabrics and expanding sales of its products directly in foreign countries. This sector is an important channel for balanced sustainable economic growth.

-With The Independent input

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