V1 mulberry

V1 mulberry
Kuppam, AP, 2010

Monday, 22 April 2013

Finding posts on Silk in S India

A Table of Contents and finding aid via dates of posting for www.simoncharsley.blogspot.co.uk

1.     Introduction, with comment by G.J.Rajesh. (2010 April 16)

2.     The Patunulkarans: Silk weavers, immigration and textiles from the 5th century AD. (2013  March 6)

3.     Tipu Sultan and sericulture for Mysore. (2013 February 13)

4.     James Anderson of Madras - 1: Introduction. (2010 April 17)

5.     James Anderson of Madras – 2: Entomology, rearing, reeling and promoting a new industry.  (2010 April 17)

6.     James Anderson of Madras – 3: Anderson versus the EIC. (2010 December 21)

7.     Mulberry Multicaulis: the mid-19th century wonder. (2010 August 10)

8.     Disease, research and control: De'Vecchj at Kengeri: experiment and crisis.  (2013 March 2)

9.    Dr H. De Vecchj de Piccioli.Manual for sericulture in Mysore. (2013 March 4)

10.  The Bangalore Silk Farm – 1: The Bangalore Silk Farm: a Japanese model and the Tata initiative (2013 April 12)

11.  The Bangalore Silk Farm - 2: Development and the Salvation Army (2010 December 1)

12.  A new century of advance and frustration: A Government Silk Farm and Italian Silk Expert. (2013 March 5)

13.  Mysore sericulture’s historic leap forward - 1: Navaratna Rama Rao & M. Yonemura: Yonemura and experimental breeding. (2013 March 14)

14.  Mysore sericulture’s historic leap forward – 2: from silkworm experimentation to commercial   production. (2013 March 15)

15.  Research and ‘the pursuit of ‘a bivoltine revolution’: Beginnings. (2010 April 16)

16.  Ditto – 2. – CSB and State in Bangalore. (2010 April 18)

17.  Ditto – 3.  The ‘grand march towards progress’. (2010 April 23 + 2013 March 5)

18.  Ditto – 4. The Karnataka Sericulture Project. (2010 April 23)

19.  Ditto – 5.  KSP, World Bank and the Japanese connection.  (2010 May 9)

20.  A  Karnataka reeling village, 1992 – 1: socio-economic change in industry and society. (2013 March 12) 

21.  Ditto - A Karnataka reeling village, 1992 - 2 / continued) (2013 March 31)

22.  The Swiss in South Indian sericulture: Beginnings – 1 (2010 April 24)

23.  Ditto - The Swiss in South Indian sericulture: International Congress on Tropical Sericulture Practices, 1988. – 2 (2010 April 27)

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Pursuit of a bivoltine revolution (3)

The ‘grand march towards progress’
CSB’s magazine for the industry, Indian Silk, had opened its response to the Workshop with an editorial statement that ‘Ministers, economists and planners were unequivocal in assuring all support to the sericultural industry in its grand march towards progress.’ It was not, however, an entirely fortunate moment to be making such assurances. The previous year had seen the end of the Vietman War but also the USA and USSR gearing up their nuclear arsenals with test explosions, and - most directly relevant - Middle Eastern Muslim nations challenging America and its allies. The oil-producing nations raised the price of oil by 70 percent and set up an embargo on supply to the US and the Netherlands. At the same time, Egypt and Syria attacked Israel. This turned into a devastating defeat for the attackers in what came to be known to the Israelis as their Yom Kippur war. The tensions more generally, and the crisis in oil supply and its rising cost, produced destabilisation and acute inflation across the globe, seriously affecting India amongst others.
By the time of the celebration in Bangalore in April 1974 therefore, there were cuts in prospect in the promised government expenditure on sericulture’s ‘grand march’ under the 5th 5-Year Plan then beginning. The farmer sericulturists were already being affected by ‘the gnawing shortage of fertilizers’ just as the agents of government were exhorting them to ‘use them progressively as vital input for better output’ of superior mulberry. Efforts to secure a specific allocation of fertiliser for the industry had so far failed. The silk market had also been affected by an embargo on the export of raw silk. This was to support the weaving and garment manufacturing sections of the industry but was likely to be at the cost of returns to reelers and rearers as producers of the raw silk. As reported in IS, these were ‘some of the ticklish questions’ that were ‘somewhat embarrassing’ for the planners. Nevertheless, ‘promises were made and accepted by the industry with stoically docile countenance’. The Silver Jubilee events were considered ‘a grand success since, instead of extolling its own past achievements, the Board sportingly chose to stand face to face with some of the still-existing major problems, and resolutely committed to rededicate itself to their solutions (IS 13, 1: 3).
For the seminar next day, it was the ‘Bivoltine Revolution’ that led the reporting when it was published in the August number. It had not received more than passing attention earlier. Now, under the somewhat ambiguous headline REARERS OVERWHELMED BY BIVOLTINE REVOLUTION, a boxed comment read:
The introduction of bivoltine rearing has come as a boon to the rearing comity of Karnataka State. With their economy geared up, the primary silkmen of trhe State look at this new programme as the RICH TREASURE HOUSE and express their gratitude to the Central Sericultural Research & Training Institute (Mysore) for revolutionising the sericulture industry. The sericulturists who participated in the seminar also underlined some of the problems faced by them.
The respondents quoted were from two main areas. A rearer from Attibele near Bangalore, who had provided the ‘rich treasure house’ idea, also ‘drew attention of all concerned with State sericulture to the urgent need of providing proper grainage facilities’, both public sector and private. This, like most of the other six contributions, was referring to the need for good supplies of layings, available at the right time, from which bivoltine rearing could proceed. Providing an adequate supply to match the exhortation to take it up that was going on had clearly been a widespread problem, within the general problem of shortages identified by Chief Minister Devaraj Urs.
From the perspective of the would-be bivoltine rearers there were other problems too. A rearer from a village in Maddur Taluk of Mandya District noted that bivoltine had been reared successsfully and income ‘doubled up’, but added the other two general and basic themes expressed in the feedback: mulberry and the fertilizer needed for it, and disease prevention. As well as the need for improved supply of layings, bivoltine rearing had more demanding requirements for mulberry, both in the prodigious quantity of leaves that would have to be available at the late stages of bivoltine rearing and for the high quality of nutrition for which superior varieties would be required. Replacing the old mulberry gardens with new varieties was a major enterprise that would take time to achieve (IS 13, 1, 1974: 21).
Indian Silk’s respondent also noted that ‘proper preventive measures’ against silkworm diseases ‘should be suggested to farmers’. Another, the progressive rearer that the study tour had visited in Kolar District where bivoltine rearing had most quickly been successful, was enthusiastic, but he also added to his concern with disease a call for CSRTI to open more extension centres ‘to provide guidance for the needy poor rearers who had not benefited from it so far’. From the same region, another wanted motor vehicles so that ‘quick transporting facilities’ could be ‘extended to extension workers’ to enable them to supervise rearing, but again he also wanted ‘proper disinfection arrangements’ to be ‘made available to rearers’. He was also thinking in terms of ‘low interest loans to be given to rearers to construct spacious and hygienic rearing houses’.

All this represents forward thinking amongst the early adopters of the intended bivoltine revolution. To them it was not just the externally induced fertilizer shortage that was worrying but basic issues of food supply for the worms and of protection against disease to which bivoltine worms were generally considered to be more susceptible that the established CB worms. There was much supporting research as well as extension still to be done.
With hindsight, it was undoubtedly over-ambitious to announce the bivoltine revolution as already achieved in 1974. Nevertheless, the CSB did turn attention with some success to the problems of producing adequate bivoltine seed. Over the following four years, as a project under the 5th Plan, it established eleven bivoltine grainages in Karnataka and one each in West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. There were seven more to come. They were to have a capacity of 10 lakh dfls, one million. Half were to be bivoltine hybrids, half multi-bi hybrids, the latter to be ‘improved CB’ using the male moths for second matings with multivoltine females. The procedure would reduce costs and provide an ‘economic utilisation of the valuable seed material’ (Ranganatha Rao 1978: 63). In 1973/4, two bivoltine ‘races’, called NN6D and KA, were released for rearing in the Anekal bivoltine seed area. The former was replaced three years later by NB4D2. Despite its and KA’s success, a further 3-yearly replacement followed, with NB7 and NB18. In practice these four races continued to be produced and tested at Anekal and all six introduced in these years were ‘continued in the field’. There were pairs in each case since the bivoltine hybrid practice required a separation of ancestry in order to secure heterosis. NB4D2, for instance displayed the dumbell-shaped cocoons of its Japanese ancestry, KA the oval cocoons of its Chinese. In practice, multi-bi rearing remained predominant in commercial production because the yield, at an average of 40-45 kgs per 100 dfls, could not be matched by the bivoltine hybrids with averages at the time of at best 32 kgs. (Mahadevappa 1986: 38-39)
From the somewhat sheltered viewpoint of the CSB and its research institute in Mysore at least, ‘the floodgate of revolution’ had been ‘flung open’ but what they now meant by this was that ‘the seeds of either the bivoltine or the multivoltine were being reared regularly’. Even the rainfed areas of the southern Karnataka, it was claimed, ‘started switching over to this new wave successfully’ (Ranganatha Rao 1978: 64). Bivoltine seed cocoon production did rise year by year, reaching 1,484 lakhs (148.4 million) by 1980-81. When the eminent B. Sivaraman, Padma Vibushan, was appointed Chairman of CSB in 1983, he was credited in IS (22, 2/3 1983) with having ‘inspired the launching of bivoltine programmes in Karnataka by initiating meaningful research on and by helping to set up silkworm seed grainages for production of bivoltine seed’. Mostly it was continuing, it was said, on ‘lines enunciated by him in the report’ of the Agricultural Commission (nd).
Sadly, this success with bivoltine seed cocoon production had not been carried through either to the yield in layings or the production of cocoons for commercial reeling from these layings. For that, 1978, the year in which the above optimistic assertion was written by Ranganatha Rao, the CSB Project Co-ordinator, represented a peak. In 1977/78 BV Hybrid layings reached 65 lakhs, compared with 1474 lakhs of CB layings. CSB produced half the BV and 4% of the CB, the State grainages the other half of the BV and 20% of the CB. The remainder was produced by the lsps, Licenced Seed Producers. While the State’s BV production increased over the years, if erraticly, the CSB’s declined, falling as low as 13% in 1980/81, the first year of the Karnataka Sericulture Project (KSP). It was only in 1982/83 that the erratic BV Hybrid production again reached and surpassed the 1978 peak. Conversion of layings into cocoons and from cocoons to raw silk were also both erratic, the overall record in these years being disasterous. (Chandra 1986: 61)

Friday, 12 April 2013

The Bangalore Silk Farm

A Japanese model: the Tata initiative

In 1898, Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata (1839-1904) began to establish a 'silk farm' at Basavanagudi on the then southern edge of Bangalore. His earlier travels had taken him to France and Italy where ‘with his usual ardour,’ he had ‘studied and seen something of the cultivation of the silkworm’. A visit to Japan in 1893 impressed him with the scientific development of sericulture there. He considered that it had ‘incorporated all that was best in European methods’, and that ‘through Japanese instruction, India would obtain a thorough knowledge of the trade, fortified by experiments which were better adapted to the East’. He noted, with significant foresight, that ‘care of the soil was far in advance of anything done by the Indian’ (Harris 1925: 110). Quddus (1923: 21-22) commented that ‘no small part of the credit‘ for the revival of sericulture in Mysore in the early twentieth century belonged to J.N. Tata’s initiative there. ‘It may be pardonable to state that Mr Tata showed a more lively and more sincere interest in the improvement of this valuable Industry than even the British Government when they were in direct charge of the State or the Government of His Highness of the Maharaja soon after the rendition’ of 1881’.

By the time his active involvement with the Bangalore initiative began, Jamsetji Tata was entering the last and amazingly productive period of his life. It included, in 1902, the finalising in the course of a seven-month journey to England and the United States the great enterprises for which he would be mainly remembered: the founding of the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, his great Tata Iron and Steel Company (TISCO), and the development of hydro-electric power for Bombay, all of which would come to fruition only after his own departure from the scene. The IIS opened in 1911 as a university devoted to practical scientific and technological research, the forerunner of all the prestigious Indian Institutes of the new century; TISCO was founded in 1907 and was producing at Sakchi, which was to be developed as Jamshedpur, from 1912; and the hydro power for Bombay was switched on in 1915. As Lala, his latest biographer, romantically exclaims: ‘And the light he brought to India is still shining’ (2004: 209). It was in the midst of all the stupendous activity entailed in getting these large enterprises under way that the Tata Silk Farm was opened. According to one of his earlier biographers, he spent Rs 50,000 on the project (Harris 1925: 110).

In Mysore his contact was the best, another of the great modernisers of the age, the highly successful Dewan of the State since 1883, Sir K. Seshadri Iyer. In Mysore in 1895, Tata had also been in touch with the old and influential silk-trading firm of Mustan of Channapatna – which also had a branch in Bangalore at the time – as a source of practical and financial information relevant to dealings with the Japanese industry in which he was already interested. In this connection a calculation of the costs and proceeds of reeling was made. A maund (mana) of cocoons, for long the standard unit in which they were bought and sold, equivalent to 11 kgs, cost Rs 12-4-0 (= Re.1.11 per kg). This would yield 3¼ seers of silk, a renditta of 12.3. Labour for reeling cost 5 annas per seer, making a total labour cost for the 11 kgs of Rs 1-1-3. The silk would sell for Rs 4-4-0 per seer, Rs 15.45 a kg., of which Re 0.63 was the profit margin. This is the kind of schematic calculation which for long prevailed in the industry, ignoring both overheads and additional income such as from silk waste. Mustan was already interested in the latter and in using Tata as a route for the export of waste as well as dried cocoons via Bombay (Quddus 1923: 23-25).
On a visit in 1897, Tata selected the land for the mulberry plantation and a rearing house, and subsequently obtained a rent-free grant and an annual subsidy of Rs 3,000 from the Mysore Government (Watt 1908: 1018; Tucker 1912). The farm was aimed at reviving the silk industry of Mysore which Tata saw as having been deserted by Government and become largely defunct. This latter understanding was wide of the mark but it presented him with a noble challenge. It was the industry’s potential value for the country and its poorer classes in particular, rather than any prospect of his own personal advantage, that motivated him. His Farm was to revive it by demonstrating Japanese methods and teaching them free to apprentices engaged for three-month periods. They were to study, as well as mulberry cultivation and silkworm rearing, ‘the possibility of improving the variety by cross-breeding; the detection of disease by means of the microscope; the preservation of cocoons for seed and for silk; the handling of the thread; its packing and its preparation for the market’ (Harris 1925: 111).

From Japan, Tata hired a Japanese couple as sericulture experts to run the farm, the husband, Mr Odzu, was generally known as the Expert, and he also recruited for him as an interpreter a Japanese servant of his cousin, R.D. Tata, who already spoke some English and Hindustani (Harris 1925: 110; Lala 2004: 54). Odzu arrived the following year, 1898, and was soon travelling by train from Bangalore to Mustan's base at Channapatna to inspect the mulberry the rearing and the reeling of Mysore. He came for a second visit, this time for three or four days, and by then he apparently spoke some English. He settled at the silk farm in Bangalore and started to experiment with the rearing of worms, first from seed cocoons obtained from Ramanagaram ('the Closepet breed') and then with others from Channapatna reared by Japanese methods. 257 seed cocoons were sent to the Farm by post. It was reported that Tata himself wanted preference to be given to the Mysore silkworms rather than importing French or Japanese (Lala 2004: 56). Mulberry leaves were also needed to feed the worms until they could be supplied from new plantations in the Lalbag Botanical Gardens in Bangalore or from their own plantation. In the meantime, obtaining the leaves from Ramanagaram proved practical: a contractor put a packet of them on the train to Bangalore each evening. But in Channapatna Mustan found himself unable to obtain a supply of cocoons: it was by now the height of summer. Reeling was more significant there than mulberry growing or rearing and Mustan was soon encouraging Odzu to experiment with reeling himself. A filature of 10 basins was constructed, the machinery imported from Japan. At the end of the year they were trying to buy 50-80 maunds of ‘raw’ cocoons, presumably to supply their reeling machines, and also planning to experiment with reeling at Channapatna. Both supply of cocoons and sale of silk would probably have been more convenient and cheaper there than in Bangalore.

The following year small numbers of seed cocoons were still being supplied to the Farm by post: they were to be well packed in a ventilated box. There were also bulk orders for reeling cocoons. In May, the height of summer again, these could be supplied at just over Re 1 per kg, but Odzu was contesting the price. ‘Everything was done upon the Japanese model, and the dexterous fingers of Indian children were quickly trained to revive an old trade’ (Harris 1925: 111). ‘Jamsetji’s experiment in silk farming proved’, it was claimed, ‘a success from the start’ (Tucker 1912; Quddus 1923: 24-5; Saklatvala & Khosla 1970: 54).

Tata himself died in 1904. By 1906, the Mysore Government was again showing a more active interest in the industry. It took advantage of the farm to provide training (Sharma Rao 1936, ii: 225), and two years later there were eight schoolmasters who had trained in sericulture there and were ready to take up teaching it in schools. At the same time Odzu, the Japanese Expert in charge, was commissioned to visit rearing centres to give advice on the proper selection of silkworm seed. There were also efforts to introduce new mulberry and better methods of cultivation.
The Farm was soon, however, to pass out of Tata control.
See Part 2.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Reporting (2) from a reeling village, 1992

Indications of socio-economic change in industry and society
 Agricultural castes, SCs and Muslims, labour and finance[1]
The continuing story of Madappa and Manchaiah of Kannur is more complex. In 1962 they separated. Madappa was himself by this time Chairman of the Village Panchayat under the new Panchayati Raj of 1961, a position he retained until 1968. In 1991, discussing the separation, he put it down to business having been bad and difficulties arising from the partners being of different communities. He himself, however, went on to set up a new filature of his own. It had twelve basins, new but of the same type as before. He chose 'Gundal Valley Chapp' as the trade name for his silk and under it established a reputation for fine quality. This filature was again in the forefront of technology at the time: it had piped water from his well, and a steam system for heating the basins. (Before that he had already innovated with a large cask on a cart as an alternative to carriers for his water supply.) Twelve basins were the most, he said when interviewed in 1975, that could be run as a single business. A certain Shivamalladevaru, recorded as a Lingayat and in 1991 himself a reeler, was claimed at the earlier date to be his partner. Adding a twisting factory to his business was another of his aspirations, but he had been seriously ill with a duodenal ulcer requiring surgery at the time and the twisting plan was abandoned. Few reelers in this area did manage to add twisting, though in Kollegal town it subsequently took off.
Madappa’s own gradual withdrawal from any direct involvement with reeling had begun. The unit was taken over by Parshivappa, his  sister’s husband’s brother, probably sometime in the late 1970s. It was still running in 1991 but the piped water and steam system had had to be abandoned when the water in the well was exhausted. They had therefore gone back to dependence on water carried from one of the two large tanks belonging to the village. Even this did not last: the tanks were silted up and the retaining wall of one was broken through. Though it was repaired in 1992, the tank was then dry. Madappa had in fact been unusual in using ground water for reeling, most of it in the village being considered unsuitable and damaging to the colour of the silk produced. 
Water-carrying, a job normally still performed by Parivaras, had become an even larger and more highly visible source of employment in the village itself and for reeling at Mangala on the main road nearby. Water had now to be fetched long distances, mainly on bicycles adapted so as to have hooked onto them large numbers of small, round, plastic water jars. These were said to be used for their convenience in filling from limited sources such as pools and steams. The old technique of settling muddy water by the use of Kaamagere cilada nuts had regained its old importance as an essential resource for reeling.
Nagesh, Parshivappa's second son, had been adopted by Madappa; he had no children of his own. A young man with a BA and already a wife and son at the age of 22, he was said by Madappa to be managing the unit while his elder and physically handicapped brother, Nanjunda Murthy, supervised it. In practice it seemed that Nagesh was mainly involved in the family's farming and sericulture. They also ran a flour mill, and this was the responsibility of the third of the four brothers.
When Madappa and Manchaiah separated, the latter continued with the old basins. His unit was still there in 1975 but was by then not working. Eventually the basins were sold, Manchaiah himself having died in 1982, and the building was used as a dwelling house for his family.
At both dates when field studies were made, 1975 and 1992, 20 basin units were working more or less regularly in the village, but in neither were there any charkas in operation; a few had been tried from time to time though. In the early 1980s at least one SC man, a reeling labourer since his childhood, had starting reeling with just two 2 charkas, with a loan of Rs 4000 from the State Bank of Mysore in Kaamagere. He worked them for just one year and later went on to basins. 
                Kannur reeling: basins and units
                                                      Nos. approx.

          Total     Agric caste:          Muslim      SC/Christ.
Basins  194           157 (81%)            6            
Units      20             17                                    ½             1991
          Total      Agric caste:        Muslim       SC/Christ.
  Basi   155              83 (78%)           42               30
   Units   20               8                       7                4

    Even by 1975 therefore, the old order of the 1950s  and '60s in Kannur was already changing. There were then 12 large units with 10 basins or more, with the 15-basin unit already noted still in operation. This made 194 basins in all, probably including a few survivors but only one new unit that had started in the intervening period. Retreat was underway. By 1991 there were only five large reelers and a total of 155 basins. Of the big five, four were survivors and only one had been established in the intervening period. This, Shivaramegowda's unit, had been started by his father Haravegowda in 1973 with 5 basins. It had been expanded to 8 in 1976, and to 12 in 1980. It was an unusual and late development of the kind which had been far commoner in the two previous decades. Where did the 39 lost basins go? Amongst reelers interviewed in 1975 in Kamagere, the major local growth centre for reeling at the time, three were encountered who had, since 1968, set up with second-hand basins obtained from Kannur. The earliest were actually six surplus basins, very old, that had belonged to Madappa himself. This chance encounter suggests the direction in which Kannur's investment in reeling was already by that time beginning to drain away.
It was the agricultural caste reelers who had earlier dominated the village's reeling who were losing out. In 1975 several of the leading men of the village, including the Chairman of the Village Panchayat, had been reelers and they had still been operating in the old style, obtaining their cocoons from a set of more or less client silkworm rearers whom they might support with advance payments if required. Lingayats and Kuruba Gowdas had been running 17 of the units and owned 157 (81%) of the basins. They were the reelers; others worked for them, but by 1991 they had only 8 units and 83 basins. At the same time the establishment of local cocoon markets by the Department of Sericulture meant that their standing as cocoon-buying patrons – and financial advantages arising from this – were undermined.
Muslims now ran 7 units with 42 basins; when interviewed in 1975 they had had only one working unit, one perhaps temporarily stopped and there was one Muslim in partnership with a Scheduled Caste reeler. The partner had subsequently, it appeared, taken over the unit for himself. One of the newcomers, Ansar Ali Khan, in partnership with a relative who had put up some of the funds required, had started in 1989 with two basins only, adding another four a year later. On the SC side, whereas in 1975 there had been only the one man in partnership and the by then non-operational remains of the original filature, there were in 1991 4 SC units and one Christian working, with 30 basins. The reeler mentioned above as having started a 2-charka unit, in about 1985 managed to start a 5-basin unit without institutional support, and this time in the name of his mother. Of the six years since that time he had been out of action for three, having incurred losses. In addition a number of SCs and Kuruba Gowdas were applying for loans of Rs.50,000 each from the Karnataka State Finance Corporation (KSFC) in order each to set up a 6-basin unit. The one Parivara unit of the earlier period had disappeared. Though members of this community had become reelers elsewhere in the region, in this particular village they had not. Could the continuing importance of water-carrying have had anything to do with this?
In the event, two SCs and two Kurubas had been successful in their loan applications by the time of a research visit in September 1992. New units duly appeared; a new phase indeed of government support had begun. The account of the transaction offered by the two successful SC reelers is interesting. Rs 23,000 was provided for the machinery, with the condition that new equipment was bought. This cost Rs 18-20,000, not including the cement work for the boiler or 'oven' of a new standard pattern adapted for burning various combustible residues rather than scarce and costly firewood, and for a solid floor. This would cost another Rs 4,000. Then there was the shed to contain it all, which would cost a minimum of Rs 15,000. A further initial Rs 10,000 was provided for working capital, but this sum would be needed for advances to recruit labour. Once the reeling was underway – if this could be achieved – as attested by receipts for cocoons and silk, the remainder of the Rs 50,000 could be claimed. To obtain all this would cost Rs 5,000 in gifts along the way. Without these the application would not move along its required track.
Though therefore the sums available from this source were substantial and mostly quite realistic, they certainly required any new reeler to have substantial resources of his own. It was not, as these new reelers were very clear, the reeling labourer who would in the future get ahead in this way. Neither had ever been reeling workers themselves: though one had been a supervisor and cocoon buyer, the other had never previously had anything to do with reeling. The former had sold land for Rs 22,000 as well as borrowing money from relatives to supplement the KSFC loan; the latter belonged to a farming family, one brother now looking after the agriculture while a third brother was a Bank Manager in Mysore. Money seemed not to be a great problem. He was building a new brick house at the same time as he was establishing his reeling unit immediately behind it. In neither case would any of their family expect to do the manual work of the unit; it was labourers from their own community who would be employed.
As regards employment in the reeling units, even in 1975 it was not limited to people of Scheduled or other castes of low status. Poor people were to be found in every community and at least a few from most had found their way into reeling. This element of flexibility no doubt had its roots in the structure of this particular village. As has already been noted, the communities were not clearly segregated in their residential areas, and the village had the reputation of being, for its area, progressive and advanced. The presence of two SC teashop keepers, apparently not patronised exclusively by fellow caste members, struck my research assistant, himself of agricultural-caste origin, as extraordinary, even unheard of. By 1991 the implications of flexibility had probably enlarged somewhat further. A son of a Lingayat reeler was noted working on the basins himself in order to learn the job.By then Lingayats, Kuruba Gowdas, Agasas, Muslims, Parivaras and SCs were all represented amongst the current labourers.
Scheduled Caste members, who had often been known previously as ‘Untouchables’, remained by far the largest category in the village, and the main source of reeling labour. Both males and females might be employed in reeling from a young age. In a small sample taken in 1975, about one in ten of both boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 14 were already earning in the units and very rarely in any other capacity. Amongst young women between 15 and 24, over a third were working in reeling, compared with one in five in agriculture. In older age groups the proportion in reeling sank slowly whilst the agricultural proportion increased, reversing the balance. For the over 45s, only a fifth remained in reeling, no more than half of those still active in agriculture. Of adult SC workers, about two thirds were women. For males once past childhood, farm work was occupying about 40% of them at all ages, with reeling at no more than half this level. Their participation declined sharply after the age of about 45.
For Parivaras, the second largest supplier of reeling labour, evidence was not obtained from Kannur but from a somewhat comparable village it suggested that the distribution of their activity was probably considerably different. Amongst them, water-carrying was the men’s most frequent work, with women in reeling relatively fewer and children unusual. Indeed in surveying Kannur and neighbourhood there was a striking difference between areas of Parivara and SC residence. The congested housing of the former, as yet without any government support, would invariably be found full of women and children, the more spacious layouts and accommodation of SCs rather empty. Its women would mostly be away at work, the children either at work or at school. The systematic difference here seemed to be significantly related to different traditional orientations to earning livings and the presence and absence of government assistance work: whereas the SC tradition emphasised employment, and at the time this was not scarce in Kannur, the Parivara tradition was of self-employment, and primarily for males.
By 1991 it is unlikely that such patterns had been much changed. Despite some loosening of restrictions, caste status was still playing a definite part in allocating particular labourers to particular employers. Lingayats were the only ones to report having Lingayat employees and these may well have been confined to supervisory and rewinding tasks, the most highly paid. Their employees were otherwise a mixture of all the other available communities, with SCs normally the most numerous. Kuruba Gowda reelers reported workers from their own community, as well as SCs and Parivaras. SCs reported only members of their own community as employees, their own relatives amongst them. Muslims similarly might use their own family and relatives, but also SCs, while one reeler claimed to employ everyone else except for Lingayats.
Though the evidence from 1975 on wage rates paid is slight, at both periods it seemed that they were less standardised than expected. Employers even varied as to whether they paid the same rate for men and for women. Where these were specified separately, women working on the basins might in 1991 expect between Rs.14 and Rs.16 for an approximately eight-hour day, whilst men doing the same work might receive between Rs.17 and Rs.20. (In 1975 it had been Rs.2/50 or Rs.3/00.) In addition workers might expect, according to the reelers, substantial advance payments of between Rs.1000 and 3000. It was not clear whether or how such considerable sums would be repaid.
They were also ready to bemoan workers' unreliability and unpunctuality, particularly at times of high demand for labour. They clearly felt themselves to be considerably dependent on their workers. This was not new: in 1975 similar feelings were being expressed. Madappa himself was at the time keeping highly detailed records of individual workers' production but he commented that he could not use these to reward the good or penalise the less so. Any such attempt  would mean added difficulty in getting the workers he needed to run his basins. Already shortage of labour at times limited the number of basins he could operate, e.g. only ten of his twelve basins. Between basins and charkas where the latter were still being used, it might vary between basins and charkas too. In 1991, a reason cited for not running charkas was that the work on them was disliked in the village and that their own people would therefore not come and it would be costly, in large advances required, to bring charka labour from elsewhere. Kannur workers did indeed feel that basin work was preferable, both as to the job itself and as to its payment on an hourly basis rather than by the amount reeled. As Uma Shankar, an experienced Research Assistant put it, on basins they felt they could 'reel in a relaxed manner'.
Migration to reeling work in neighbouring Tamil Nadu was another often cited reason for shortage of labour, though it was claimed also to be a way in which a pattern of regularly maintained reeling only at favourable seasons became viable. A unit's workers might migrate temporarily but be ready, with outstanding advances perhaps playing a part, to be summoned back home when the reeler again needed them. In 1975 Kannur had also still been drawing in labour from Mangala, a main-road village three-quarters of a mile away. By 1991 it was apparent that the flow had largely reversed. It was not now drawing in labour but was, like the area more generally, supplying experienced labour to other places with more pressing need for it, expressed in higher wages offered.
Madappa in 1991 considered that the workers then were not what they had been in his day. It was not the Karnataka State Marketing Board (KSMB) which should be blamed for the rather poor reputation that Kannur’s silk by then suffered as compared with other major reeling centres around. Nor was the quality of the reeled silk, as often thought, to do with some special character of the water used: any sweet water would do. It was a matter of the workers showing sufficient interest, since it was on them that quality mostly depended.

[1] For further and rather later analysis of reeling and the village context, see Simon Charsley & G.K. Karanth 1998. Challenging Untouchability, Chapter 8, “Increasing autonomy: The Harijans of Rateyur”.