Macharla Mohan Rao is the founder president of RCJS (Rashtra Chenetha Jana Samakhya, National Handloom Weavers Union), the first independent trade union of handloom weavers in India. For the past three decades, he has led efforts to highlight the challenges faced by handloom and allied rural workers, in sustaining craft practices. The union has tirelessly worked to organize workers, and through mobilization, advocacy and research worked to reform public policy and market relations – highlighting major issues such as wage inequities, unsafe working conditions and unfair trade practices.
He also conceived of an innovative housing program for the most marginalized weavers. By combining public schemes for housing, and weaver specific work shed schemes, three colonies (including Sidur) were constructed. Conceived as a community housing project, weavers contributed their labour toward building the homes. These colonies stand to this day as testament to the ingenuity, resilience and hopes of the weavers, and serve as exemplars of resilient social infrastructure. When weavers from other parts of India toured these colonies, they remarked that they seemed like 5-star weaving villages.
Mohan Rao’s far-reaching intervention included not just homes and work sheds, but also kitchen gardens, and fruit bearing trees, so as to provide food security and better diets to these families.
Specifically in Sidur Colony, he worked to sanction the land in the name of the weavers and got them to physically build their own homes and kitchen gardens. His vision was that home ownership and food security would help protect weaving families from the capriciousness of capitalist forms of production.