SUALKUCHI, April 19 – A week after the mass people’s unrest over the selling of Benarasi paat fabrics in the name of Sualkuchi products, the people of the silk village sat with the officials of the State Handloom and Textiles Department and the National Handloom Development Corporation on April 10 to resolve their burning problems.This was for the first time that the common people of the village without any political intervention, businessmen or any representatives of the handloom co-operative societies of the handloom co-operative societies or NGOs, self-help groups have tried to derive benefit of the government schemes. The local people obviously expressed their views and grievances before the officials.Anchoring the programme, Akhil Gogoi, president of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti explained the hurdles before the Sualkuchi silk industry which was preserved by the people from generations since the time of Kautilya. He said the recent unrest was the reflection of those problems which directly augmented gradual extinction of the silk industry in the village.He emphasised that the government should take necessary steps to protect the glorious silk industry of the village. The KUSS president said the government sanctioned subsidy to different companies and tea growers to develop infrastructures. But the same government has no funds to provide subsidy to the common weavers who are doing their best for safeguarding the State’s cultural heritage. He criticised the callous attitude of the government. He asked the government officials present to clarify their stand for protection of the silk industry of Assam.Replying to the questions put from among the audience, Rabindra Nath Sarma, additionaldirector of the Handloom and Textiles department declared that the government had constituted a committee to study the geographical industry, design etc., to protect the silk industry of Sualkuchi. Referring to the State Handloom Minister’s declaration of five yarn banks at Sualkuchi, Sarma denied the fact of existence of yarn bank in Assam, not to speak of Sualkuchi. He said the handloom department was not directly involved in yarn distribution. In fact NHDC is involved with distribution of yarn. At this, the audience made a hue and cry and demanded that the Handloom Minister should beg apology for misleading the Assembly.Speaking on distribution of paat yarn, Sanjib Chetia, deputy manager of NHDC, Guwahati said that there are six depot operating agencies at Sualkuchi which purchase paat yarn from NHDC and sell them to the consumers at mill gate price. For this, the NHDC sanctions transportation cost and 2.5 per cent commission per kg to each agency. These depot operating agencies are also authorised to sell silk hank yarn at 10 per cent subsidy to the beneficiaries or beneficiary agencies in order to facilitate regular supply of basic raw materials in the handloom sectors, he disclosed.The people then alleged that these agencies sold the silk yarn in open market and misused the mill gate price scheme. The weavers as well as master weavers put emphasis on banning import of silk fabrics with the design used in Sualkuchi silk fabrics, patent of indigenous design of Assam and various ethnic groups, 50 per cent grant for infrastructural development of looms and 50 per cent subsidy for raw material to the weavers of Sualkuchi, installation of separate power supply to Sualkuchi and 50 per cent discount revenue for power to the weavers, inclusion of labourers who are engaged in weaving at Sualkuchi in AAY scheme, enhancement of wages to weaving workers, etc. After threadbare discussion on various demands with the officials, the people urged officials to take steps to address their grievances within a month.At the end of the meeting, a minute of the discussions was released. It was said that an inquiry about the malpractice of depot operating agencies will be made. Necessary arrangements will be completed within three months to issue weavers’ credit card to every weaver of Sualkuchi and steps will be taken to halt import of gamosa, sador, mekhala, dokhana, gale etc. A notification will be brought out until the Act comes into force. A proposal to the higher authority will be sent for grant of 50 per cent subsidy on yarn and 50 per cent grant for infrastructural development of looms, inclusion of weaving workers into AAY or PDS will be forwarded to the authority concerned.Further, a proposal for granting 50 per cent discount in electricity to the weavers of Sualkuchi will be forwarded to the competent authority. The minutes included a future meeting between the representatives and the government as soon as possible.Other officials including Girish Brahma, joint director of Handloom and Textiles, KC Bhunya, chief textile officer, Handloom and Textile department, Amal Narayan Choudhury,assistant director of Handloom and Textiles and a team of employees of NHDC and Handloom and Textiles Department participated in the interactive programme.