Image for representational use only.Image Courtesy : Spring Assisted Opening Knives
Rampur: “Jaani… Yeh Bacchon Ke Khelne Ki Cheez Nahi hai,” (This is not meant for kids to play with), was the signature dialogue of legendary Hindi film actor Raj Kumar who made the Rampuri chaku (knife) famous. Alas, the knife industry of the city is now on its deathbed.
The Rampuri chaku was once the favourite weapon in Hindi film industry and was used in almost all the movies by villains in the 1970s and even in the 1980s. However, these knives were eventually replaced by the firearms in films, probably influenced by Hollywood.
Babbu Bhai Chaku Wale in the Tipu Sultan Market, formerly known as the iconic Chaku Bazaar of Rampur district in Uttar Pradesh, is one of the last two knife shops left in the city. Shahzad, 35, the owner of the shop, told Newsclick that he had not sold even a single piece of the iconic Rampuri Chaku in the past two months. All he has been selling are kitchen knives and locks.
“The market for fancy knives is finished. The times are gone when people used to buy knives as a fancy item to showcase in their drawing rooms. It is all due to the policies of the government, as they first banned knives with blades longer than 4.5 inches and then came noteban (demonetisation) that affected the business,” he said.
Shahzad said till 2005, there was good sale of knives but people slowly stopped buying these and the industry has now totally lost its ‘sharpness’.
“This is my grandfather's shop. I am running the shop because I have to sell out the stock that I have with me. I have already shifted to kitchen knives and locks. The other purpose of running the shop is that I know the media will come here, and if they highlight the issue, then the industry can revive,” he said, adding that the first step to kill this industry was taken in the 1990s when the Uttar Pradesh government decided to ban the knives with blades longer than 4.5 inches.”
He said, “the cost of the regular Rampuri chaku ranges between Rs 100 to Rs 120 while the cost of production ranges between Rs 40 to Rs 50. Earlier, we were able to sell at least 10-20 knives in a day, but now only mediapersons who come to Rampur for coverage buy these knives,” he added.
Shazad said the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and demonetisation, in comparison, came much later than the real blow faced by this industry due to the government’s decision in the 1990s.
“The police in the early and late 1990s used to interrogate knife-sellers whenever a crime was committed but the fact is that a knife-seller never sells a sharp knife. Crime can be committed by anyone and with anything, but targeting the shop owners was wrong and was also the reason that many businessmen switched to other businesses,” he said.
One of the two surviving two knife-sellers, Shahzad, complained that the government did not make any effort to save this heritage of Rampuri chaku.
Asked if Chinese products were impacting trade, he said, “the Chinese did us no harm and made a very small impact on the market, but demonetisation really affected trade, shutting down domestic or kitchen knife-making work.”
Mohammad Afzal, a worker at the small knife factory in the shoulder binding lanes of Naya Rampur area of the district, told Newsclick that he makes domestic knives now but earlier he would earn Rs 200-300 per day.
“Earlier we used to make the Rampuri knife which comes with press button and then we used to get Rs 60 per knife. We were then able to earn at least Rs 300 per day but now we earn hardly Rs 100 per day because there are no takers of the original Rampuri chaku. We now make only domestic knives and we hardly earn Rs 20 per knife. Our living standard has really gone down and so has the condition of knife makers,” he said adding that the lack of union amongst knife makers has also taken a toll on this industry.
It may be mentioned that Rampur has got patch-work embroidery under the UP government’s One District One Programme (ODOP) flagship scheme, but its iconic knife-making and violin-making industries, which were the biggest and famous in the past, have been neglected.