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Nearly 70 years after Mahatma Gandhi had remarked that women of Assam could weave dreams on their looms, a group of weavers from the state told AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi here on Friday that not all was well with the traditional looms here.
“Cheap mekhela-chadars and gamochas, as well as imitations of traditional Assam silk coming from outside have threatened the future of our traditional weavers. Moreover, rising cost of muga and paat silk yarn has also caused immense hardship to weavers like us,” said Gitanjali Saikia of Golaghat, one of the several hundred women – most of them members of self-help groups that either weave cloth or rear ducks and poultry – told Rahul Gandhi.
Rahul Gandhi, who arrived here on a two-day visit to Assam on a pre-election campaign, was interacting with women SHG members from different parts of the state. On Saturday he is taking part in a seven-km padayatra in Barpeta in lower Assam, which is a bastion of Badruddin Ajmal’s AIUDF. On Friday evening he also attended an extended executive committee meeting of the Pradesh Congress and interacted with select intellectuals of the state.
Women weavers also told Rahul Gandhi that local traditional weavers have not been able to compete with cheap imitation silks coming from outside the state. Fabrics coming from outside the state are cheaper. Moreover, price of yarn is rising. Our traditional handloom will not survive if this trend continues,” Gitanjali Saikia said.
Other women SHG members like Sima Madhabi Moran of Kakopathar, once a ULFA bastion in upper Assam, on the other hand praised the Tarun Gogoi government’s schemes benefiting them. “But we want more subsidy and support from the government,” said Moran, who began with three looms in 2008 and now has 12 looms that provide employment to 25 other women of her village.
The Congress government headed by Tarun Gogoi also showcased several women SHGs that have done well in different income-generating activities. Renu Barua of Gumoria village near Guwahati for instance spoke about how her monthly income had risen to about Rs 9,000 and how she has also constructed a house worth Rs seven lakh, apart from making all her four children graduates through duck-rearing.
“Then president APJ Abdul Kalam visited our village and praised our duckeries in 2006. Since then, thanks to the state government’s support, many women like me have become self-sufficient through rearing ducks. Our SHG members have also rebuilt their houses with the income generated through our combined efforts,” Renu Barua said. (ends)