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Chinese imports creates unemployment in Banaras silk industry
Dec '08
India's silk industry has a tradition going back by more than a thousand years. According to a fable tale, a Chinese princess had secretly taken out the eggs of cocoons and seeds of mulberry tree in her dress from China, which was brought in to India. But now after the passage of many centuries, it is the silk industry of China which is inundating the Indian markets.

Imports from China are growing with each passing year and the prices at which they are shipped in to India cannot be matched by the local manufacturers, whether it is raw silk, yarn or fabric. India had imposed an anti-dumping duty on import of raw silk, but Chinese raw silk started finding its way in to Indian markets, via Nepal and Bangladesh which have free trade treaties with India.

The next agenda of the Indian government was to impose an anti-dumping duty on silk yarn to protect the Indian silk industry, but the innovative Chinese manufacturers found a way out and started shipping powerloom woven silk fabrics and even Banaras silk saris from China. The Chinese manufacturers have hired weaving and design experts from Varanasi in a bid to copy the traditional Banaras silk design.

Women, who are also traditionally connected with the silk weaving trade since centuries and earned a living by making beautiful embroideries on the silk saris, also saw their livelihood being snatched away by the embroidery machines imported from China. These cheap imports have been made possible due to the massive subsidies doled out by the Chinese government to its domestic silk industry.

The Indian government on its part has also tried to protect this centuries old traditional industry, but the attempts have been half hearted. Either the subsidies are not reaching the beneficiaries or the subsidies are not enough to shield them from the cheap and massive imports of raw, yarn or fabric silks from China.

Unemployment levels in the silk industry in Varanasi is growing to very high levels, From a peak employment level of 750,000, it is now down to just 250,000 and that too on very low income levels. The silk handloom industry is an industry which has the capability to generate employment to all the members of the family, by means of a single handloom.

This is possible, because all the members of the family take turns in weaving the sari at their homes and additional income is generated by doing the embroidery work on the same sari. A shut handloom means loss in income to each and every income generating member of the family. The handloom weavers of the city of Varanasi are looking up to the government to ensure that their traditional livelihood is not lost.

Fibre2fashion News Desk - India

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