Bhagalpur silk fabrics are under the global spotlight.But, beneath all the sheen, the industry has a dark side as well, leaving the existenceof its craftsmen in obscurity.

Bhagalpur is a town with historical importance situated on the banks of the riverGanga in the state of Eastern Bihar. Once considered as the biggest tradecentre of Eastern India, the city is famous for its unique silk fabrics called 'Tussahor Tusser'. Silk weaving is an age old tradition in the city. Fabrics producedin the city are famous both at the domestic and the international market. Bhagalpur cluster ranks the second highest, next to Karnataka in the production andexports of silk fabrics. It has been named as the Silk City due to itspopularity for Bhagalpuri silk.

Uniqueness of Bhagalpur Silk:

History of the Bhagalpur weavers date back to a period morethan 100 years. The industry is 200 years old, with skills passed on to thecraftsman over many generations. More than 35,000 handloom weavers, with 25,000looms live in Bhagalpur. Total trade of Bhagalpur is approximately 100 croresper annum, 50% comprising domestic and 50% from the export market. Around1,00,000 people are engaged in the work of separating silk threads fromcocoons, and spinning the yarn to weave into cloth.

Silk fabrics made in Bhagalpur are being exported tocountries like West Asia, Europe, U.S., and Japan. Home furnishings arebecoming increasingly famous in the international market. Outfits designed withthis exclusive silk fabric have gained immense popularity in ramp shows, andfashion weeks.

Is the Industry losing its sheen?

The industry makes 2 million meters of silk in a year. Afterreaching a profitable figure of Rs.3, 500 crore in 2007, silk exports arepredicted to fall to Rs.2, 000 crore in 2009. Bhagalpur, once a booming placefor silk fabric making is now losing its market to new centres such as Bangalore, and Ahmadabad. Lack of credit, power shortage, and increasing competition fromthe other silk manufacturing centres has put the Bhagalpur craftsmen underjeopardy. The subsidies offered by the Government to the silk making units in Bhagalpur are also drained off by some other people. Some of the looms are operated bygenerators, and are more dependent on them. Bhagalpur receives power supplyonly for two hours in a day. Chronic power cuts in the state have alsointensified the problem.

The craftsmen are average people, with many of them livingbelow the poverty line. While they make glorious fabrics for the elite peopleof the society, their lives always are in darkness. As the weavers are not ableto grease the palms of officials they have problems in getting bank loanssanctioned. Most of them take loans from the market for an interest rate of 5%for a month. With the payments for their cloth getting delayed, they faceproblems in repayment. Possibilities exist that, weavers might shift foralternate source of earning, and leave the age old weaving tradition todeteriorate, and die gradually.

The silk industry of Bhagalpur is reeling under adverseconditions. The drying market is staring at the silk weavers, leaving them onthe brink. Many factories are shut down, and weavers are moving to othercities, while some of them are doing labor works, and a few started sellingvegetables. The silk industry of Bhagalpur is now fighting for a foothold.


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