After gifting clothes to Muslims and Christians on their festivals, Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) has decided to gift saris to around 97 lakh Hindu women on the occasion of Bathukamma festival which is on 28 September. Bathukamma is a unique floral festival celebrated by Hindu women in Telangana.
Bathukamma is a nine-day long festival that culminates two days before Dasara that is on 30 September this year. Ever since Telangana was formed three years ago, KCR has been giving away clothes and saris to around 25 lakh Muslim men and women on the occasion of Ramzan and 20 lakh Christian men and women on Christmas every year.
There has been criticism that the TRS chief has been neglecting Hindus even during their festivals. This year, the Chief Minister has decided to distribute saris to around 97 lakh Hindu women free of cost on their Bathukamma festival. Chief Secretary S.P. Singh has confirmed the decision to gift saris to Hindu women this year.The scheme will cost the exchequer around Rs 270 crore.
Around 86 lakh of these women would be from the below poverty line families and another 11 lakh women from the middle-class, officials in the handlooms and textiles department told The Sunday Guardian. The CM has directed officials to see that each sari along with blouse is valued at Rs 230 at the weaver’s end.
If the free clothes’ gift pack for Muslims cost the exchequer around Rs 45 crore and Christians another Rs 35 crore, the gift pack for Hindu women will cost around Rs 270 crore and it may go up by the time of the festival three months away.
However, the amount spent by the government would give a big boost to the ailing handloom and textiles sector in Telangana.
Weavers in Telangana were in the news for starvation deaths and suicides for some time as they are steeped in a debt burden and plagued by the lack of sale of their products. There are around 83,000 handloom weavers in 650 registered cooperative societies, while another 40,000 are outside the cooperative sector. They both operate around 50,000 power looms and work in handlooms alongside.
Most of the time, they procure raw material out of borrowed capital and weave their products which are sold on credit, either to their cooperative society or retail shops. As there is no steady market for handloom or power loom products, the weavers are forced to constantly live on borrowed money and are pushed to a crisis-like situation.
“The decision to distribute free saris to women on the occasion of Bathukamma festival is a boon for both the women and the ailing weavers who would be fully employed for the next two to three months,” Telangana Handlooms and Textiles director Shailaja Ramaiyer told this newspaper. The work would be distributed to all the powerloom clusters in the state, she said.
The decision to distribute free saris will be a boon for the ailing weavers who would be fully employed for the next three months.
The government is planning to produce saris in 36 designs and colours so that the women would like to go for more such designs. The free saris would be distributed to women throughout the Bathukamma festival, from 10-28 September, through ration shops and public distribution network. Women would receive them through the biometric system at the shops, Shailaja Ramaiyer said.
Newly appointed Telangana Handloom Weavers’ Cooperatives’ Society (TSCO) chairman Mandala Sriramulu, too, lauded the decision of KCR to distribute free cotton saris to around one crore women on the occasion of Bathukamma festival every year. “This will trigger a lot of work and business to powerlooms in the state and revive the rural economy,” he told this newspaper.
Presently, TSCO is able to make an annual business of around Rs 300 crore and is struggling to fill a gap of around Rs 150 crore to keep its members sustained with enough work. If the government can add around Rs 300 crore worth market every year, the apex society would turn around and can make even profits, he said.
Apart from rescuing the weavers’ community, KCR’s decision to distribute free saris to Hindu women is also ridden with politics. As the next general elections are nearing and the BJP is working hard to emerge as a strong force in Telangana, the TRS president can ill-afford to ignore the interests of Hindus and gifting saris on Bathukamma festival is a good opportunity to serve them.
Already, local BJP leaders have been criticising the Chief Minister that he had been donating clothes to Muslims and Christians, but not to Hindus. As the BJP is planning to rope in Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath for the election campaign next year, KCR has decided to placate the majority section too. His decision to distribute free saris would serve more than one purpose.