Swept by Karnataka floods, Belagavi weavers drown further in debt

Karnataka floods Belagavi Weavers - The Federal
Shakuntala, wife of Vijay Kattimani, a weaver in Nekar Colony in Belagavi district of Karnataka, stands beside their weaving machine which has suffered repairs due to the floods.

“Weaving is my only source of income and it’s been 15 days since I have earned a single paisa for my family,” says Vijay Kattimani, a weaver on Damani road in Nekar Colony in Belagavi district of Karnataka.

Floods had inundated the district and both his machines stopped working. Like around 150 weavers in the region, he has suffered losses of around ₹50,000-₹1 lakh. But that is not the only concern of the 32-year-old. Like the others, he is drowning in debts that need to be repaid urgently.

“Now if I want to start working again, I should again take loans. I will need at least ₹30,000 to get my machines repaired. I have zero savings in my bank account,” he said helplessly.

Recently Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman who visited Nekar colony has promised them relief as soon as possible.

But Vijay says weavers have always been a neglected group in the state.

“My father was a weaver too. His whole life was miserable. He did not know anything other than weaving. He had a lot of dreams for me, but he could not afford money for my education. I have studied only till Class 10. I too don’t know anything other than weaving,” he said looking at his impaired machine.

In his 10×12 square feet house, Vijay’s wife Shakuntala puts their one-year-old daughter to sleep in a cradle made out of a saree tied, right next to the machine.

“It is very dangerous to sleep in this house. We don’t know when it will collapse,” she says, looking worriedly at their other daughter, aged five years.

Reviving livelihood an uphill task

Not just machines, silk yarns, design plates and woven sarees have been damaged due to the heavy rainfall.

According to villagers, none of the material can be used again. “I don’t know if we will be given any relief fund, but even if we take loans, buy materials and start working, it will take us more than a month to restart,” said Narayan Ayappa Kalmani, another weaver.

Weavers in Nekar Colony usually earn around ₹8,000-₹12,000, and the only subsidy they get from the government is for electricity.

“The handloom and textiles organisations in Belagavi do not understand our plight. We have been asking for other subsidies for years, but they just keep saying they will send the application to Bengaluru and see. How can a family run with ₹5,000-₹6,000?” asks Maharudra Lakshman Morkar, adding that that was what was left after repaying loans.

Morkar sent his daughter and two-month-old grandson to his relative’s place as he did not have the means to feed them. “The day I sent them away, there was knee deep water in my house. Only I know how I moved them from here.”

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