In India, the relative importance of the handloom sector, one of the largest employers following agriculture, has been declining for last few decades. The All India Handloom Census data for the year 2009-10 however showed a rather modest decline in the number of weavers in West Bengal, in contrast to a 33% decline at the national level in the same year. But share of handloom income in total household income for the weaver households in the state has decreased significantly pointing to considerable occupational diversification among them. Based on a qualitative field study in three districts of West Bengal — namely, Hooghly, Nadia and Purba Bardhaman — this essay presents findings related to the condition of handloom weavers in West Bengal and in the light of the findings, examines two issues— intra-sector and inter-sector mobility of labour as well as weavers’ response to changing market conditions. The paper argues for a more labour-focused approach in place of currently dominant tradition-focused understanding of the sector.
- Rajesh Bhattacharya
- Sarmishtha Sen