Covid-19 relief scheme has not reached all Bengaluru weavers

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Some say a/cs not linked to Aadhaar, call process tedious

Not all weavers in Bengaluru city haven’t been receiving their direct benefit transfers (DBT) under the Nekar Samman Yojana, launched in July 2020 as part of the Karnataka government’s Covid-19 relief measures.

Under the scheme, launched by the Department of Handloom and Textiles, weavers were eligible to receive a yearly cash transfer of Rs 2,000 after applying via the Seva Sindhu portal.

The state has approximately 54,000 handloom weavers and 1.25 lakh powerloom weavers, all of whom are eligible for benefit of different DBT schemes. While close to 46, 000 handloom weavers and 70,000 powerloom weavers have benefited, about 63,000 (35 per cent) have not received the benefit. The reasons for this range from their bank accounts not being linked to their Aadhaar cards, not being registered as weavers, or having to travel to the district office to apply for the benefit.

“To get Rs 2,000, I will have to spend Rs 10,000 to arrange for the documents, travel to the district office or to make settlements under the table. So what is the point of this scheme?” said Krishnamurthy, a powerloom weaver from Gollahalli, Kengeri.

Kempamma Handloom Weavers’ Society, Bengaluru, head Murugan Babu  has a similar view. “I am aware that such a scheme exists. Some of my weavers did receive it last year, but they haven’t received any this year. Some had issues due to their accounts not being linked to Aadhaar, so they have been left out. It is supposed to be an annual scheme, not a one-time transfer.”

Co-operative societies are eligible to receive a 20 per cent rebate on the products they sell. This seems to have remained unimplemented.

The Observer interviewed some weavers outside Bengaluru as well.

Srikanth Guled, a handloom weaver from Ilkal, said he received all his benefits on time.

Another weaver, Vanjre Ramesh from Molkalmuru, Chitradurga, however, didn’t see any point in the cash transfer. “While I have received the amount in my account, my family members, who are also weavers, haven’t received it. Either way, how is this going to sustain us? It would help if they properly implement the 20 per cent rebate on our products” he said. “We have a GI tag on our fabric, with a good enough recognition and demand. Yet the number of weavers here has gone down from around 6,000 to… 300-500.”

Mamatha Rai, head of the Kadike Trust, Udupi, shared: “More than the state government’s schemes, we received support from NABARD, because of which we were able to revive Udupi saris and improve the conditions of the weavers here.” Kadike Trust was the recipient of the Nekara Ratna Award this year for reviving Udupi sarees, and increasing the number of weavers in the district.

Deputy Director (Handlooms) Syed Ahmad said: “It is almost impossible to reach out to every single weaver especially due to Covid. Some 2,800-odd applicants have had issues in receiving this transfer since they weren’t linked appropriately with the National Payments Corporation of India.”

Asked about the small amount that is transferred, he said: “We are essentially in a fashion industry. We can’t buy all the fabric from weavers as agricultural produce is bought…. If we did that and then the fabric goes out of trend, it would be a waste. Additionally, this scheme is meant to just boost the weavers’ morale and keep them slightly afloat.”

Silk saree shops in Chickpet, Bengaluru.

Though a large number of handlooms in Bengaluru are silk ones, most silk sari sold in the city come from Tamil Nadu or Andhra Pradesh. The Observer visited several sari shops in Chickpet and found that most products were sourced from the Kancheepuram Silk Weavers Co-op Society.

D.N. Shivshankar, owner of Sri Vinayaka Silks said: “It is a brand thing. Kanchi silks have recognition amongst people. So it makes sense to sell just that.”

The Andhra Pradesh government has transferred Rs 24,000 into the account of each eligible weaver having his/her own loom for the third consecutive year under the YSR Nethanna Nestham scheme, according to chief minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy.


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