Lace designers deserve better deal
Narsapur in West Godavari district is famous for handmade crochet lace clusters giving exposure to women empowerment
The majority of lace exporters are from Seetharamapuram village near Narsapur. Lace industry was started in 17th century by some people from Ireland. They have given training for women community in making lace by nimble fingers and have shown the way for women empowerment and used to export the same lace to foreign countries.
The cluster is specialised in doing lace works like dollies, furnishings, garments, tablemats among others. The same work has spread to Palakol and Veeravasaram in West Godavari district, Rozole, Amalapuram and Nagaram in East Godavari district and Bantumilli in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh. After the local people tasted the profit, there has been growth of lace clusters which resulted in mushrooming of lace exporters.
Once it was Rs 350 crore per annum business. However, it has now fallen to nearly Rs 30 crore. Majority of lace clusters are shutting down due to huge loss in business and lack of sufficient orders from the importing countries.
Previously, two lakh rural women used to depend upon the lace clusters. Due to downfall of the industry, the number has come down below one lakh. Out of total production, 80 percent of production value is being exported. There is less potential to expand its market both overseas and in domestic markets.
China is giving tough competition in lace making and exports. They prepare lace on machines. The Chinese government is giving lot of subsidy for purchasing lace thread, supply and exports. However, people in countries like America, England and Australia like handmade crochet lace rather than Chinese machine-made.
In spite of the demand from these countries, the growth rate of crochet lace work remained stagnant from 1991 to 2019, because of heavy competition from China.
Lace clusters remained in the iron clutches of a few private exporters and most of the women artisans are unorganised and desperate. The crochet lace clusters had given potential for women employment and foreign exchange earnings.
The lace cluster at Narsapur has tremendous business potential. It is being considered as one of the mega clusters in the country where about one lakh artisans, all women, live and depend for their livelihood. The women in their leisure time are pursuing this work and producing laces in different designs according to the orders of exporters/importers.
It is not a direct profession to earn their livelihood. The women are not aware of the actual cost of the raw material used for the lace making and the value added after the lace is prepared and the rates at which the finished lace is sold in the market.
In other words, their work is totally restricted to their labour only. Therefore, artisans earn very less amount as remuneration in this lace making process.
Nowadays, living, working and economic conditions of women artisans are miserable. In the present economic recession, the lace exports have further come down. Owing to a sharp decline in export orders from abroad, over one lakh lace artisan in West Godavari and East Godavari districts face an uncertain feature.
The women artisan's daily wages are also reduced for Rs 300 a day to Rs 200 and in certain areas they earn Rs 160 only. The cluster artisans are heavily dependent on job work from exporters who have direct orders hence they are paid lower conversion charges.
After the starting of Alankrithi Lace Park at Narsapur by Andhra Pradesh government, International Lace Trade Centre (ILTC) in Narsapur by the Government of India, the artisans are well trained and they are paid stipend as per the government rules and regulations.
The self-help groups are mostly benefited by the Alankrithi Lace Park. In this way, the government is extending helping hand to the poor women irrespective of their caste, creed and religion. Thereby it is directly empowering the women.
(The author is an associate professor, Y N College, Narsapur, West Godavari district)