Several power loom weavers in Uttar Pradesh have gone on indefinite strike in protest against the new power tariff imposed on them. On Tuesday, not one loom in Varanasi functioned and weavers were seen protesting at several places, demanding that the old tariff system be restored. According to them, the new tariff will increase the cost of production and force them to lose business to their counterparts in Surat and Bhiwandi.
At present power loom weavers outnumber handlooms four-to-one in UP. As per estimates about two million weavers are associated with some 272,000 power looms in Varanasi, Mau, Azamgarh, Jhansi, Barabanki, Sitapur, Gorakhpur, Sant Kabirnagar, Basti, Meerut, and Ambedkarnagar districts of the state.
According to the weavers, the state government used to take a fixed charge for electricity earlier, but this has now been replaced with new tariff. Earlier the state government was taking Rs 72 per power loom as electricity charge but as per the new tariff, the bill would be in the Rs 1,400-1,500 range.
Demanding the restoration of the old billing system, the leader of weavers in Varanasi, Haji Maqbool Hasan, gave a call for an indefinite strike starting Tuesday. He said the strike would continue until the withdrawal of the new system. The president of UP Bunkar Sabha, Iftekhaar Ansari, said the weavers are not in a position to pay electricity bills as they have already suffered heavy losses in business.
According to a noted manufacturer in Varanasi, Rajat Mohan Pathak, the increased electricity bill will make it difficult for local power loom weavers to survive in the market. He said that the loom business is better organised in Surat and Bhiwandi than it is in UP, and the new billing system will make local textiles expensive. Pathak said traders would not be affected due to this but weavers certainly will. He added that many handloom weavers in UP had switched to power with a small investment and any change in the costing would hamper their business prospects.