Relief for Weavers Community

Relief for Weavers Community

“I used cover my nose and mouth with my pallu as I could not afford a mask and it was also not available in the medical shop near my house. But now I am very happy to see the mask in the kit and this will help me to protect myself,” 45-year-old Padma Bhagyamma had remarked during the Oxfam India-MARI COVID-19 response in Jogulamba Gadwal district of Telangana.

She was among the 250 families from the weavers community who had received food and safety and hygiene kits. Apart from the masks, soaps were also provided in the safety and hygiene kit. Keeping hands clean was one of the key protective measures from the Coronavirus. For many buying soap was almost impossible considering that they didn’t have enough money to even feed their families. “We have started using soap religiously now,” she said.

The weavers community, already pushed to the corner in the last few decades, were grappling for survival during the lockdown. Though Bhagyamma was happy she received the dry ration, she made it a point to tell the MARI volunteers that of the 1600 families in the village, at least 1500 were in dire need of food. While we reached out to 250, more needed to be done.

Bhagyamma belongs to the weaving community, the Padmashalis. She used to work as a labourer on the loom until very recently, when a chronic illness affected her health making it impossible for her to continue. So she took up a job as a helper in one of the loom owners house to earn a living; she was not allowed inside the house though, so she would clean just the outside. A single woman (her two daughters married off), Bhagyamma was struggling to earn anything during the lockdown.

Her owner himself was struggling to earn anything; he couldn’t pay her wages. She felt it wasn’t fair to ask them for money when they were struggling themselves. Members of Weaver’s Association provided some rice but for many nights she had to go hungry to bed. Despite her situation, she was more concerned about the 1600 weaver families who were unable to get even two square meals a day. “People are scared and confused. Though they are in despair, they are optimistic that normalcy will be resumed,” she said.    

The food kit distributed comprised rice, dal, cooking oil, spices, etc. “This will help me make nutritious meal and sustain me for the next two months. There were a few others who gave food in the town but no one gave even enough that would last for a month.”

“I cannot thank MARI and Oxfam India enough for the ration they have provided us in these critical times. I hope they can reach out to more families,” Bhagyamma summed up.

The author is a member of MARI (Modern Architects for Rural India)

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