Saturday, February 25, 2006 (Nalgonda):
If farmers in Andhra Pradesh reached out for pesticide, weavers are reaching out for poison dye to end their woes.
The state government admits 45 weavers have committed suicide in the last one year.
But according to independent surveys, the actual figures put the number of such deaths at over 200.
The Congress government that came to power claiming to be champions of the weaving community has taken virtually no initiative to better their condition.
Rajesh feels fate has conspired to tie him down to the loom. He feels let down by his father who encouraged him to dream that he would one day join the police force.
But his father committed suicide six months ago, leaving the responsibility of his two sisters and mother on him.
"I had my own dreams but now I have no hope that I can come up in life being a weaver but I cannot give up the loom because my mother cannot run it," said Rajesh, weaver’s son.
Rajesh’s mother Radhabai says they had borrowed up to Rs 90,000 to ensure all three children go to school, hoping they would find a means of livelihood other than weaving.
"I want my son to study now because our condition is bad, he is learning the loom," she said.
Two houses away, lives 23-year-old Radha with her two sons. Her husband consumed poison dye in September, again unable to repay loans, unable to feed his family, unable to take his ailing son to a doctor.
"How should my children and I survive? I don’t even know how to run the loom. I do petty work. How will they eat?" said Radha, widow of suicide victim.
Just in Siripuram village of Nalgonda district with hardly 1000 families, there have been six weaver suicide deaths in the last one year.
Not even one of those families has got the Rs 1.5 lakh compensation declared by the government.
"No government likes to hear the news of suicides. We do understand that there has been a spate of economic discomfort of the weaver community," said G Vinod, Textiles Minister, Andhra Pradesh.
Governments may have changed but the reasons for the crisis in the five lakh weaver families in Andhra Pradesh have not.
Towards the end of last year, yarn prices increased abnormally by 20-40 per cent. That had the effect of almost 40 per cent of the 1000 looms in one village falling silent.
Several skilled artisans moved out elsewhere to find work as daily labour for mere survival.