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Rashmi Ranjan

With the elections to urban pockets in Odisha inching closer, political parties are leaving no stone unturned to woo voters and garner maximum support in favour of them.

In the Silk City Berhampur, which is set for an extremely tight battle, campaigning is at fever pitch with candidates coming up with their manifesto, while the development cries of weaver community in the city have taken centre stage as one of the major poll issue.

Grappling with distress sale of their produce, loss of livelihood, market chain unavailability, the weavers in the city have attributed government negligence as the reason behind their sorry state of affairs.

“We have been pursuing weaving work for years now. We get to see politicians only during the elections and that is when they make tall promises of development. But unfortunately, they fail to keep their words time and again,” alleged a weaver.

“Political leaders make fake promises only. No developmental work has been done for the weaver community in Berhampur. Even though, we have been continuing our family occupation for over five decades, development is still a distant dream for us,” rued another local weaver.

Echoing similar opinion, T Venkat Rao, a saree shop owner in the city narrated, “I have been running the saree shop for the last 20 years. But, the sale has nosedived significantly in recent times especially in the wake of the pandemic. The fancy items from Bengaluru and Kolkata have taken over the traditional Berhampur handloom."

“The production has also gone down as the weavers are getting very low payment. It takes at least 15 days to weave a saree, but at the end, the weavers get only Rs 2000 for the task. How can he manage his living with this mere earning,” Rao questioned.   

Meanwhile, the mayoral candidates of three major political parties- BJD, BJP and Congress have assured to work towards the betterment of weaver community if voted to power.

BJD Mayor candidate Sanghamitra Dalai said, “CM Naveen Patnaik has given go ahead to set up two looms for the weavers at Patara Sahi and Balunkeswar temple. The State government will also provide marketing facility to the weavers to sale off their product.” 

However, BJP’s Mayoral candidate Sabita Suara Panigrahi blasted the BJD for the poor situation of the weaver community in Berhampur. 

“The traditional Berhampur handloom is in the verge of extinction during the 22-year ruling of BJD. If I come to power, I will take necessary steps to rehabilitate them and set up special industry for the engagement of local weavers,” said Sabita.

“Berhampur is famous for silk sarees. But we need to work for development of the weavers,” said Manju Rath, Congress’ Mayor candidate.

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