Assam News – Powerloom-woven gamosas leave indigenous weavers high and dry

by Guwahati_City

Ajit Patowary


Powerloom-woven, cheap gamosas from outside the State have flooded the State’s markets, affecting the indigenous handloom weavers. The situation has reached such a point that even the Gosain gamosa, which is used to decorate the Gosain  thapana (altar), has also been supplied by the outside-the-State powerloom owners in huge quantities, to the utter distress of the indigenous handloom weavers.

Gosain Bihu, observed on the third day of the Rongali Bihu, in which the deities are worshipped, is a major part of the Rongali Bihu rituals during which a new Gosain gamosa is placed on the altar.

The Central government had enacted the Handloom (Reservation of Articles for Production) Act, 1985 to protect the interests of the handloom weavers by way of protecting some traditional handloom items from the inroads of the powerloom sector. Eleven handloom items of the Northeast, including gamosa, mekhela, chadar, dakhana, etc, of Assam, have been declared reserved under this legislation.

But, the failure of the State government to frame rules under this legislation has proved to be a major obstacle in enforcing this legislation here.

Official figures show that during the Rongali Bihu season, on an average, a business transaction of over Rs 65 crore takes places in the State from the deals in gamosas alone. For, gamosa is traditionally ingrained in the Rongali Bihu rituals. Over 14.5 lakh handloom weavers are directly engaged in the business of weaving gamosas. Besides, about 10 lakh of the State’s people are indirectly linked with this enterprise.

Gamosa, besides being an inseparable part of the Assamese day-to-day life, is so intrinsically linked with the social and spiritual life of the State’s indigenous societies, and it has become a symbol of pride for the indigenous peoples here.

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Of the State’s over three crore population, around 70 per cent use gamosa in their day-to-day life. But, for the past several decades, it has become a fait accompli for the State’s lakhs of handloom weavers to face the onslaught of the out-of-the-State powerloom owners constantly, because of the problems in enforcing the above Central legislation.

In matters of tackling the fraudulent traders, who are making huge profits by selling the gamosa, mekhela, chadar, dakhana, etc, produced in powerlooms, the State is facing some other problems, too. It is learnt from the official sources that the absence of an authentic laboratory in the State to determine the mode of production of the above reserved items has stood in the way of checking the menace.

The Centre has notified a Kolkata-based laboratory for determining the mode of production of the above items of the NE region. But, the delay in getting the confirmation reports from this lab, due to its distance, has emerged as a major disadvantage for the State to file complaints with the police against the unscrupulous traders in time. There are occasions, too, when this lab complained that it is in the dearth of the required equipment to ascertain the mode of production of the items sent to it by the State.

Official sources said that a request is placed before the Handloom Commissioner to issue a directive to the Deputy Commissioners of the districts to constitute district and subdivisional squads for monitoring the trades in the above reserved items and the Directorate of Information and Public Relations (DIPR) has also been requested to circulate an appeal for generating public awareness on Section 22 of the 1985 Handloom Act, which has banned production of gamosa, mekhela, chadar, dakhana, etc, in powerloom. Sources said that this time the election-related activities of the government employees also delayed in taking up the issue.

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