It’s a revival of the silk route of sorts. Quality silks are being re-exported from China to India and raw materials such as cotton and chemicals in place of spices exported from India to China.
Trade of silks from Varanasi, ancient India’s art and cultural epicenter has also come a full circle from the days during the British control of the silk route when Jamshetjee Jejeebhoy sent his three brothers – the Joshi’s from Surat to China to learn how to weave satin brocade. The name Tanchoi comes from the word Tan meaning three in Cantonese and Choi, the surname of the teacher that taught them the craft
Dropping its 30 percent anti-dumping ban on Chinese silks, in the wake of a fall in silk production, India recently decided to import 2000 tonnes of high quality silk from China to distribute among weavers in the famous silk centres at Kanchipuram and Benares. New Delhi had imposed an anti-dumping duty on silk from China for five years effective until April 2011 to protect the domestic industry. However with Chinese silk flooding India’s premiere silk markets nonetheless, textiles minister Mr. Dayanidhi Maran decided to allow the import of silk so it can be properly monitored and regulated.
The move is seen by analysts to be an effort to protect the art of hand weaving of which intricate designs compose the world famous Kanchipuram and Benares sarees. Imports of cheaper silks from China have gradually killed the industry with weavers being left unemployed or having to take up petty manual tasks like rickshaw-pulling. Today, only 40,000 families in Varanasi and Chandauli are associated with handloom weaving while the figure was 1,25,000 10 years ago.
The resultant fall in hand weavers whose skill is now a dying art, has led the Chinese to take over a majority of the market replicating the world famous designs for half the cost. The situation is extremely grim as sons of weavers to whom the art would have been passed onto are not interested due to its uncertain future. Additionally common people who do not know to look out for the Geographical Indication (GI) tag , handloom mark and silk mark are purchasing the Chinese variety as its significantly cheaper.
“The cheap Chinese silk fabrics are not only replacing the traditional goods but are also being sold under the tag of Banarasi sarees. The days are not far when the Chinese fabrics will wipe off the Banarasi products completely if corrective measures are not taken immediately,” Rajni Kant, the director of Human Welfare Association (HWA), the organisation instrumental in getting GI tag for Banarasi saree and brocade told the Times of India.