For many years, weaving has been one of main occupations for people in Magadi, and Ramnagara districts of Karnataka, located near the capital Bangalore. Weavers from neighbouring states migrate to these places in search of livelihood. Recently, some of them paid a hefty price for doing their job.
Ahmed said as soon as they put the raw silk yarn, which was brought from Bangalore, into the spindle and turned on the machine, there was a pungent chemical smell. “Immediately, our eyes started to burn and tear up. Within seconds, there was swelling and our vision blurred,” he said.
This was also the case with 45 year old weaver Narayana in Magadi. His employer took him to an eye clinic and then to a hospital in Bangalore, which is 50 kms away. He is not sure if he will be able to see again. Ahmed and Narayana are among the nearly 60 weavers have lost the eyesight after handling the chemically treated silk yarn.
“This consignment of raw silk yarn was probably treated with chemicals by suppliers to increase its weight and give it the semblance of better quality yarn which costs twice as much — Rs 2,500 per kg,” said Nanjundaswamy, one of the weaving unit owners, who has since closed the unit. Nanjundaswamy said the yarn is supplied by traders from various parts of the country through middlemen and it was not possible to say where these toxic supplies came from.
Samples of the yarn have been sent to the forensic laboratory to ascertain the chemicals present in them. Meanwhile the affected weavers and their families demand an inquiry into this incident. Would the government turn a ‘blind eye’ to this request?
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