Barabanki: Zaidpur, a small sleepy town located 20 kilometres east of the Barabanki district headquarters, was once the home town to more than 1,000 handloom mills and was one of the major employment hubs of the district.
The Zaidpur town is famous for its handloom stoles which were exported to different cities of the world but since the change in export policies in 2014, the handloom industry of the town has seen a major setback. The town now has less than 1,000 handlooms mostly operated by women as the men have migrated to other countries in search of jobs.
Mehrul Nisha, 36, lost her mother-in-law two months ago and neither her husband nor her brother-in-laws could come for the cremation of their mother as they live and work in Dubai. She said that the cremation of her mother-in-law was done with the help of neighbours and relatives living in other parts of the district.
“My husband was a handloom operator/worker and he moved to Dubai on my request two years ago as we were finding it very difficult to run the family with just Rs 2,700 every month. He is now earning and sending about Rs 12,000 every month for the family and this is a reasonable amount to run the family, pay for the education of kids and eat,” she says.
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The mother of two who still operates and takes small orders of handloom stoles from local dealers of the Barabanki district says that on a handloom one can make hardly six pieces of stoles measuring 2 meters each and for each stole the price she gets is Rs 15. “We do not earn more than Rs 90 per day, but the problem is we do not know any other work than this. Also, getting paid Rs 90 per day requires at least ten hours of work on the handloom, with concentration on every single strain of thread passing through the piece of cloth,” she says.
Faiz Ansari, 48, one of the prominent businessmen of cotton fabric and handloom products in the district says that the craze and market of the handloom products is dead now owing to the intrusion of cheap powerloom products from China, Surat, West Bengal, Ludhiana and even Mumbai.
“The handloom products require a lot of hard work and people do not want to pay more when cheaper powerloom products are available in the market. What matters for people are cheaper products and not what has been made with hands or with the machine,” Ansari says who comes from the Sunni sect, who dominate this business.
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Mohammad Rafique, a colour artist at one of the handloom which also has a single unit five thread process powerloom in Zaidpur, says that this profession is very dear to him but it is not yielding him enough money to run his family smoothly.
“My son does not want to study as he wants to go to school and I am forcing him to study in the Madrassa where education is provided free of cost. I hardly earn Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,000 every month by colouring the fabrics here and have four sons and two wives to look after. Private schools demand so much money and I feel helpless now. I also want to go to the Middle East and get some work but then there will be no one to look after my family,” he says.
It may be mentioned that the government of Uttar Pradesh has identified the Barabanki district for its handloom products under its flagship scheme of One District One Product. According to the data available with the government, there are about 11, 200 informally trained handloom workers in the district.
Surprisingly, neither the government nor the district administration has yet made any effort to start any Skill India programme to provide training to the youths in a bid to encourage the handloom industry and has also snatched all the subsidies these handloom operators were receiving except for low cost electricity since 2014.
Mohammad Azmi, a small time social activist who has been helping the handloom workers through his writings said that despite the government’s concern to revive the handloom industry, the officers sitting in the district are proving as roadblocks in the way.
“The schemes of the government could not be started due to red-tapism. The officers do not listen to anyone and the have hardly visited this area. The Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath himself called us when the ODOP programme was being started and was looking very happy after we gifted a saffron piece to him but his officers are really pathetic. We are contemplating to meet the CM soon after the elections and apprise him about the situation,” he added.
Barabanki is going to polls on May 6 in the fifth phase of Lok Sabha Elections.
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