The main source of support to handloom weavers, including those of Varanasi, comes from the Office of the Development Commissioner, Handlooms, under the Ministry of Textiles.
Office of the Development Commissioner
For the 12th Plan of the Government of India (2012-17), the Comprehensive Handlooms Development Scheme (CHDC) has been formulated by integrating all the major components of the schemes of the previous plan period, such as Integrated Handlooms Development Schemes (IHDS), Marketing and Export Promotion Scheme (MEPS) and Diversified Handloom Development Scheme (DHDS). The scheme will offer support to weavers, present in clusters containing a maximum of 5,000 handlooms, that are within and outside the cooperative fold by providing raw materials, design inputs, technology improvements, marketing support through exhibitions and permanent infrastructure such as Urban Haats, marketing complexes.
The social security scheme for weavers offered by the government is the Mahatma Gandhi Bunkar Bima Yojana (MGBBY), which is an insurance cover provided in case of natural and accidental death and in cases of total or partial disability.
The non-government organisations (NGOs) that work for the promotion of Varanasi weavers and improvement of their living conditions include the Human Welfare Association (HWA) based in Varanasi, which works on broad social development issues in the city inclusive of advocacy for handloom weavers and application for the Geographical Indication (GI) status of Banarasi brocade. GI is an aspect of protection of industrial property and refers to a country or place of origin of that product. It assures quality and uniqueness attributable to its origin in the defined geographical locality, region or country. The HWA is now a registered proprietor of the GI registration of Banaras brocade and sarees, which means that it can exercise exclusive rights to the use of GI and can prevent others from using it.
Human Welfare Association
Varanasi Weavers is an organisation that has been involved in this space since 2007. It has undertaken several initiatives such as presenting the story of Varanasi weavers at international fashion shows, exposing weavers to various markets, conducting health camps for weavers, training women in the skill of weaving, traditionally only taken up by men, and organising them into Self Help Groups (SHGs). A SHG is a small, economically uniform group of rural poor, voluntarily formed to save and contribute to a common fund to be lent to its members as per group decision and to work together for social and economic improvement of their family and community. Local NGOs, government agencies, banks and financial institutions lend support for the formation as well as operation of SHGs.
Nest is a non-profit organisation devoted to maintaining traditions of craft and the livelihood of artisans worldwide, in collaboration with non-profit Rasa Charitable trust, will be launching the Varanasi Project in November 2014 to provide weavers fair market access.
Nest, a non-profit organisation