With the Tamil Nadu government yet to place orders for the Pongal dhotis and sarees, the power loom workers of the state have threatened to go on a hunger strike. The state government has been providing free sarees and dhotis through Public Distribution Systems (PDS) since 1981 and this has helped thousands of power loom, handloom, and pedal loom workers.
Generally, the government places orders in the month of July but in 2021, the orders were placed in the first week of August. The power loom industry is worried as the government is yet to place the orders even after the first week of August has passed.
According to the power loom industry office-bearers, around 1.8 crore sets of dhotis and sarees are generally distributed through the PDS in Tamil Nadu during the festival.
Pongal marks the Tamil New Year and generally falls on January 14 or 15 every year and the power loom industry is worried that if the order is not placed now, the work cannot be executed.
After the Covid-19 pandemic, power loom owners were in crisis leading to the closing down of the industry and some had even sold the machinery to meet expenses. This has led to several workers losing their jobs and the work order given by the state government has been a major solace to the power loom industry.
K. Karunakaran, a power loom worker of Erode district in Tamil Nadu while speaking to IANS said, ” The government, as far as to my knowledge has not yet given the orders for the Pongal dhoti, sari sets and we are eagerly waiting for this order for our survival. The industry will not survive if we don’t get this order and with the first week of August also over, it will be difficult to execute the order if it is delayed even by this week. We have no other option but to go for a hunger strike to make the government notice.”
According to the industry sources, of the 1.8 crore set of dhotis and sarees, 1.5 crore sets will be produced in the power loom sector while 30 lakh will be placed in the handloom and pedal loom sector.
The Pongal orders have always been the lifeline of the power loom sector spread across Erode, Thiruchengode, and Namakkal districts of Tamil Nadu where almost 70 per cent of the power loom industry of the state is concentrated.