Ponduru khadi, famous the world over, may not be available for future generations as weavers are shifting to other professions. The reasons are not far to seek -- severe lack of patronage by end consumer, lack of encouragement from the State government and the lure of good payment -- up to Rs.125 per day -- even for unskilled workers under the National Rural Guarantee Employment Scheme. Youngsters are not keen on learning the art of weaving fine khadi which has brought world wide recognition for Ponduru, a small town 25 km from the district headquarters.
Mahatma Gandhi was so impressed with the finesse of the khadi produced here that he always preferred it. Khadi clothes from this region are exported to various countries such as the US, Denmark, Japan and Sweden as they are made up of special varieties of hill cotton and red cotton which are grown in Vizianagaram and Srikakulam districts.
Ponduru is truly a spinning and weaving town with looms in the houses of the Pattushali, Sali and Devangi communities. Women from the Pattushali community have all the traditional items necessary for ginning (separating the cotton from seed), carding, slivering and spinning into fine yarn.
The art is disappearing very fast as workers are fed up with meagre wages. Each worker earns between Rs.40 and Rs.80 per day based on their skill and working hours. “We have no other go except to depend on weaving in this age though Rs.40 per day is not sufficient to meet ends. That is why I discouraged my children from learning the art.” says Tirupati Rao. “At least Rs.200 should be paid per day to attract weavers. Otherwise, they will continue to opt for other jobs. In future, Ponduru khadi will fade out if the government does not take steps to encourage weavers,” Seetamma, who earns Rs.80 a day.
The historic town of Ponduru may see a further decline in this traditional activity. From 2,000 spinners 15 years ago, there are only about 800 left in the profession. Earlier there were over 150 fine khadi weavers here, now there are only 45-50. The Andhra Fine Khadi Karmikabhivrudhi Sangham (AFKKS), which has been supporting hand weaving and spinning since 1949, has expressed its inability to pay more to the weavers.
From 2,000 spinners 15 years ago, there are only about 800 left as many have shifted to other professions