Silk Weaver
A silk weaver with his family in his one-room house where he weaves sarees.Reuters

Allocation of funds to the handloom industry of Varanasi has filled the weavers with joy, and they are now praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday announced an allocation of ₹500 crore to revive the textile industry in Varanasi, along with two other cities in Uttar Pradesh - Bareilly and Lucknow. The ₹500 crore has been allocated to set up textile mega-cluster not just in the cities of UP but also in Kutch, Surat, Bhagalpur and Mysore.

And additional ₹50 crore has been provided "to set up a Trade Facilitation Centre and a Crafts Museum to develop and promote handloom products and carry forward the rich tradition of handlooms in Varanasi".

"Modi didn't forget us. Our expectations have come true. We are happy, the Modi government is taking care of handloom weavers of Varanasi. Iske liye hum unka shukriya ada karte hain (We thank him for it)," The Times of India quoted weaver Farid Ansari.

Varanasi silk market, which was once predominant in the production of the finest silk sarees in India, is facing threat from Surat silk market. Benarasi silk obtained the Geographical Indication recognition in 2009 but it has been losing to the modernised and mechanised markets, which produce silk sarees faster at cheaper rates and consequently selling at cheaper costs. The Benarasi silk, which is hand woven, comes at comparatively higher prices.

The weavers of Varanasi have been into the tradition of weaving silk sarees at their homes for generations. They have earned excellence in the craft, especially in Persian designs.

Due to the cheaper and machine-made Chinese products available in the market, their value is downsizing. They can neither compromise with the prices nor can they compete with the market.

The looms have been shutting down one after the other as it was becoming increasingly difficult for them to survive economically. With the number of artisans in the silk industry slumping down gradually, vendors fear that there will not be even a single artisan left 10 years from now.

The weavers thus feel the need to stabilize the silk market, which will bring down the prices and help them approach international markets without any hurdles.

However, the budgetary allocation has instilled a ray of hope among the weavers of Varanasi.

"We welcome the budget allocation for Varanasi handloom sector, but there is also a need to ensure stability in silk market and make it competitive in international market. Reduction in custom duty on silk thread is essential to bring about stability," TOI quoted Maqbool Hassan.

However, the weavers are sceptical about the implementation of the scheme as a similar promise was made in the last year's budget "but the benefits never reached the genuine weavers", said Ramzan Ali.