Weavers set election agenda in Sircilla

More than 700 weavers have committed suicide since the power loom crisis gripped this town in 1996-97. Sircilla (‘centre of wealth’), which is part of Karimnagar Lok Sabha segment, once competed with top textile centres in the country such as Sholapur and Surat.

Located 40 km away from district headquarters, Sircilla’s history goes back to years.

It was in 1920 that a man, who had learnt weaving techniques in Sholapur, established a similar centre here. In no time, the locals adopted the technique and soon, weaving became a main source of livelihood of 50 villages around the town.

Sircilla saris were a rage at the time but competition from other centres in Maharashtra made this town shift to power looms by 1970.

“Now, there are around 36,000 power looms in Sircilla but we have stopped making the famous Sircilla saris. Instead, we produce white cloth used in making innerwear and ours is the cheapest cloth that any innerwear maker could ever get,” says Musham Ramesh, General Secretary Power Loom workers union. Ramesh points out that the workers, loom owner and the raw material supplier have to work in tandem to revive the sector.

“We need training to improve quality of the product, so that we can export it, we want loans with low interest and guaranteed market,” another weaver Shyamala Mallesham of the Indiranagar weavers’ colony points out. There are around 20,000 workers here who allege that the 50 per cent of subsidy announced by the state or Union governments goes to owners of the power looms.

“Instead, let the government give four power looms each to a worker. It will give them confidence, let the government buy all its textile requirement from Sircilla, we need health insurance and implementation of minimum wage and PF and ESI facility,” Ramesh said.

Another complaint is that the Ministry of textiles doles out freebies for handloom sector, but nothing for power loom. Weaving communities here also demand better sanitation and medical facilities. Tribal hamlets still lack basic medical facilities. The special hospital commissioned by the Centre for beedi workers is closed. Union Textile Minister Kavuri Sambasiva Rao, who visited Sircilla a few months ago, had assured a Yarn Bank and a power loom modernisation scheme after TRS legislator K T Rama Rao exerted pressure on the government. But nothing has materialised due to elections.

Ramarao, son of TRS chief, is contesting from the segment for the third time. He is pitted against K Ravinder Rao (Congress) and A Vijaya of the BJP. KTR retained the seat in 2010 elections by a margin of over 68,219 votes, improving his earlier performance of a tight margin of 171 votes against same opponent K K Mahender Reddy of the Congress in 2009 general elections.

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