Rasulpur: The famous tussar industry in Gopalpur village under this block in Jajpur district is facing an acute crisis with over 1,000 weavers sitting idle without any work due to back-to-back onslaught of Covid-19 pandemic as well as devastation caused by natural calamities like cyclonic storm and floods.
Gopalpur village under Prathamakhandi panchayat of the block is known as “tussar village” of the state. Tussar clothes manufactured by the weavers in the village are in great demand among the people within as well as outside the state.
However, repeated onslaught of Covid pandemic and natural calamities like cyclonic storm and floods have hit them hard. As a result, they have failed to sell their produce as buyers have stopped visiting them or contact them.
Moreover, they have failed to obtain raw materials to manufacture new clothes. Weavers’ cooperative societies which act as intermediaries between the weavers and merchants have also failed to provide work to them.
This has pushed the weavers’ families into distress and hit their livelihood hard. Left with no option, family members of hundreds of weavers have drawn the attention of Chief Minister towards their problems in a memorandum.
They have threatened to leave the state and work as migrant labourers if the Chief Minister does not intervene into their problem, weaver leaders Makardhwaj Guin, Ramesh Chandra Das, Pratima Guin, Shakuntala Chand, Malati Dutta, Gobind Das, Narayan Das, Duryodhan Chand and Balaram Das said.
In the memorandum, the weavers have mentioned that they were severely affected when the cyclone Fani hit the state in 2019. They were somehow carrying on with their business but things came to a full stop when the Covid pandemic struck the state in 2020. In 2017, a devastating flood in Brahmani wreaked havoc in their area following a 200-feet-long breach on the river embankment at Gopalpur.
The floodwaters came gushing into the villages in Gopalpur and Chakagopalpur and entered their houses where the looms were functioning. As a result, raw materials and finished products worth several lakhs were damaged. Over 800 families were affected due to this flood hitting their lives and livelihood.
The Chief Minister, taking pity on the weavers, announced to give 50 kg rice and Rs 500 for each family as assistance and an additional Rs 4,100 as compensation for their loss. As per the announcement, the affected families received only rice and Rs 500, but are to get Rs 4,100 towards compensation.
Since then, four years have passed but many of the affected families are yet to put up their looms in order. The government has also not provided them with any workplace where they can put their looms and resume working.
The Chief Minister had announced a special package of Rs 25 crore for the weavers during the Covid pandemic. The weavers have demanded, in the memorandum, that the government should increase the amount as it falls short of their requirement. They have also demanded that the government grant them the status of artisans and provide them allowance of Rs 1,200 to each weaver above 50 years of age.
The weavers have also demanded a scholarship scheme for the meritorious students of weavers’ families. In addition, they want the government to make the Handloom and Handcraft Development Council functional again and utilise the Rs20-crore fund under it for the benefit of the weavers’ community.