India women reject ‘poor quality’ free saris from government

A woman looks at at the sari gifted to her.
Image caption Women were disappointed because they were told they would be given hand-woven saris

A scheme to gift saris to poor women as part of festival celebrations in the south Indian state of Telangana backfired after women began rejecting the “poor quality” garments.

“I doubt it will last longer than four days,” Ganga, who had just received a sari, told BBC Telugu’s Balla Satish.

Women said they were disappointed because they did not receive handloom saris as promised by the government.

The state reportedly spent 2.2bn rupees ($34m; £25m) to buy 10 million saris.

The saris, gifted free of charge to the women, were part of government plans to celebrate a popular local festival, Bathukamma.

Authorities insisted that the garments were of “high quality”, but offered to replace them all the same.

Some opposition parties have asked for a “judicial inquiry” into what they call a “sari scam” alleging that the “cheap quality” of the saris proved that the government had spent far less on each sari than claimed.

Officials had initially said they would purchase the saris from weavers in the state, which would also spur the region’s handloom industry.

But when they realised that saris woven by hand would not be ready in time for the festival, they are believed to have ordered them made on power looms.

Image caption There have been videos showing women burning the saris

“We are taking whatever they give us,” a woman named Padma told BBC Telugu, after collecting her sari at a centre in Hyderabad, the state capital.

“They claim these are handloom saris but they are not, they are just saying that,” she added.

Videos of women burning a pile of saris, and angrily demanding to know who would wear such “cheap saris” have begun circulating on social media.

Image caption The state reportedly bought more than 10 million saris on the occasion of a popular festival

The government has alleged that opposition parties are behind these videos because burning saris is not an “Indian cultural practice”.

Not all women, however, were upset over the alleged “poor quality” of the saris.

“It would have cost only 70 to 75 rupees,” said Savitri. “But I am happy with it because it’s free.”

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Media captionSo just how do you wear six metres of unstitched cloth without getting hopelessly tangled?
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