Why is the Handloom Industry of Himachal perishing?

To initiate the research, a detailed understanding of this topic was conducted. The query can be understood by understanding the environment in which this function operates.

A traditional weaver is the one, who weaves wool on the khaddi and develops some good quality and warm but coarse products. At the first look itself you can’t overlook the coarseness of the product. Woollen shawls, woollen blankets, caps, gloves and socks are some products which are produced by these weavers.

Traditionally, the weavers have been using the “khaddi” that comes across as a Handloom machine. The throughput of these machines is low as a weaver needs to travel across the breadth of the “khaddi” while laying the thread. Also, things like wool procurement, shearing facilities, wool storage etc. need to be looked into while these concerns are being addressed.

Lets start from the point of sales

When a customer comes to buy a shawl, there is very little knowledge about Handloom product and Powerloom product. A Handloom shawl may take about a week to manufacture whereas Powerlooms churn out thousands in a day. This production nosh economies for Powerloom products and a glance across the Kullu – Samsi road would make it sure that to an ignorant customer, Handloom v/s Powerloom makes little difference.

Conversion of Wool to Thread

Some new mills have started operating in Himachal and because of this, the conversion time from wool to thread has shortened by this, but again the Powerlooms are the biggest beneficiaries.
Himachal Sheep
Wool Procurement & Animal Husbandry

The sheep is sheared twice in a year at specified centres, primarily controlled by the woolfed. A significant proportion of the wool is procured from nomads, who travel from Ropar in Punjab to Manali and above. For a sheep owner the security/care of the sheep is the biggest challenge. Their major concern lies in the “Sheep insurance” clause that requires the dead body of the sheep to be presented for claiming insurance (it becomes quite impossible for them to get a sheep out of drowned water or to get one from the deep valleys).

Wool Storage

As per some data (don’t recall at present), many of the Wool Stockyards were infested with rats or there were some where the roof leakages had affected the wool stocks.

Inefficiencies at these steps cause a rise in the wool procurement cost.

At the market front, most the buyers fail to understand the difference between Handloom and Powerloom products. Pashmina – a brand name for handloom products has now been hijacked by Powerloom ones.

Yes, in given context, the handloom industry of Himachal is going down and if the existing trends continue, there may be a case where it gets totally wiped out.

Why should there be an effort to revive it, if it doesn’t make any commercial sense for low levels of productivity?

This is most important question to be answered and here are few reasons to be considered according to me:

1. It showcases the value of Himachal Pradesh
2. It indicates our culture and the core that we are made of
3. The tradition of Himachal and its people

But, then if thats the case how can this be utilised….

I think as Himachalis, we need to take pride in our heritage (which we seldom do).

The revival of Handloom to me appears like the revival of Himachal culture and our ancestry. It should start with a “BIG AWARENESS” on handloom. There need to be strong “legal audits” on the spurious products being sold under the name of Handloom products and even the society’s account books need to be audited for the benefit of the weaver. I think the cooperative movement in Gujarat can be a classic example and solution to this issue.

Phot by Vivek Thakyal

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