13 May, 2021

How Coronavirus Has Reduced Assam's Silk Town To A Cemetery

Sualkuchi had an annual turnover of Rs 1,000 crore. The gifted weavers are now working in construction sites for Rs 500 a day!

Photograph by Surajit Sharma
How Coronavirus Has Reduced Assam's Silk Town To A Cemetery

The looms have long gone silent. The traditional hand-operated, bamboo-and-wood contraptions on which skilled artisans weave dreams in threads of silk. And the modern machines that usually whirred day and night to churn out traditional dresses. But Sualkuchi, the silk town of Assam, is silent as a cemetery nowadays, with its fabled weaving industry shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Some 35 km from Sualkuchi, Ananda Das, 27, is working at a construction site these days. He has traded his weaver’s tools for a spade and shovel, like many other fellow-weavers, to feed his family in these hard times. Assam, and the Northeast, may not have been as hard hit by coronavirus like the rest of the country, but the region has also been put under lockdown to prevent spread of the virus. The state has recorded one death from COVID-19, out of 44 positive cases.

While lockdown measures have been relaxed to reopen the construction sector, the weaving industry of Sualkuchi is still shuttered. “We had little option. As the days (under lockdown) increased, our...

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