The streets are narrow and empty. Most homes appear shut, except a few where you find weavers and artisans working meticulously, stealing an occasional glance at passersby.

Pedana, a village in Andhra Pradesh’s Krishna district, known for handloom weavers and Kalamkari specialists for the past four centuries, has lost the exuberance that it held as recently as 10 years ago.

“About a decade ago, there were 10,000 handlooms here, but now there are hardly 1,500,” Joganda Rao, the only handloom weaver who operates a shed now, with 30 looms, told BusinessLine . The others are individual single-loom operators. Apart from a weaver, each looms indirectly supports at least four other workers for various related functions.

Pedana, a municipality with 17 wards, has a population of about 31,000, according to Census 2011. This means that from about 30 per cent of the total population, the number of weavers has dropped to a little over 5 per cent now.

“You should probe this further and ensure help rather than merely writing about it,” said Rao, an unmistakable streak of irritation in his voice.

The weaves of Pedana had travelled to global shores in the 16th and 17th centuries, when the Machilipatnam port was flourishing under Qutub Shahi rule at Golconda. It was also a favourite of European trading companies.

Multiple challenges

The challenges today are several, an interaction with the villagers revealed. These include the poor availability of formal credit, the lure of taking up screen-printing for a quick buck, and the migration of the youth to urban areas in search of jobs.

Pitchika Srinivas, a manufacturer of natural colour handblock-printed Kalamkari, another traditional art of Pedana, rues the exodus of workers from the handblock technique to automated screen-printing.

“Problems have increased manifold for Kalamkari exports after the introduction of GST,” he said. “We are not eligible for input tax credit. Since June 2018, incentives such as Rebate on State Levies (ROSL) have been pending.”

The imposition of 5 per cent GST on handlooms and Kalamkaris is resulting in losses for the weavers, further weaning them away from their traditional craft, said industry watchers.

Both handlooms and Kalamkari are on the decline; this should be stopped to protect the rich historical and business legacy of Pedana, observed Srinivas.