18 May, 2021

Blighted Warp And Weft

Weavers’ looms have fallen silent in Etawah. They now await the death blow from a cashless economy.

An idle loom in Etawah’s Jagannathpura, home to 15,000 weavers, who produce gamchhas
Photograph by Pragya Singh
Blighted Warp And Weft

Sitting atop a white gunny sack filled with spools of cotton thread, Mohd Salim counts the days since he last handled cash. “I don’t understand why the fight against black money is being linked with us having no cash. It is ten days since I handled Rs 5,000. Ab Rs 100 ka note bhi gayab hai—now even the Rs 100 note has vanished,” he says.

Salim is a weaver in Etawah town of central Uttar Pradesh, a trade plied by more than 40,000 here. Their principal product is the gamchha, a traditional, diaphanous cotton towel widely used in eastern and northern India. To make  gamchhas, a weaver first buys cotton thread, sold in the form of spools, by the sack-load. The smallest sack, weighing  60 kg, costs Rs 6,500-7,000.

Salim is at a tiny store-cum-godown run by his supplier in one of the town’s narrow by-lanes. A few other weavers are hanging around too, trying to get, on  credit, a few sacks of the thread.

All of the weavers work on power looms, far more efficient than the ones their fathers or grandfathers used. These...

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