This paper evaluates the social issues faced by weavers in Varanasi, Uttar
Pradesh, with particular regard to depression, physical health issues,
malnutrition and suicide.
Over the last 15 years, weavers in Varanasi have suffered along with the
general decline of the Varanasi weaving industry. The preeminence of the
illustrious Banarasi sari has diminished with the increased popularity of
synthetic and imported substitutes. Varanasi weavers, already operating
in a feudal employment and product distribution system, have confronted
significantly reduced opportunities in this market.
Under these conditions, health problems, malnutrition and poverty have
spread throughout the weaver community. In response, many weavers
became despondent. Depression has emerged as a frequent affliction as
more weavers are unable to provide for their families, and has lead to an
increase in weaver suicides.
The Varanasi-based People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights
(PVCHR) has begun documenting suicide deaths amongst weavers.
Examining individual cases reveals that these deaths are usually a response
of weavers to their disempowerment and inability to provide for their
PVCHR has also worked to combat the social issues that lead to weaver
suicide by partnering with and helping to organize the weaver community.
This has helped some weavers empower themselves with a sense of
community and increased access to health services, combating the
growing threats of social hopelessness and suicide. Other Varanasi
weavers have reluctantly accepted their decline, and many have shifted to
non-skilled positions in other industries, such as driving cycle rickshaws.
In this report we examine some of the motivating factors behind the
weavers' plight. We also consider individual case studies from PVCHR's
field work, which offer an insight into the societal challenges weavers cope
with on a daily basis.
Suicide & Malnutrition among weaver in Varanasi