Friday, June 14, 2024

Weavers of Mau hope next government will deal with their plight

Photo: Sahid Faris/Maktoob

Mau is popular for its craft of weaving and producing rare types of sarees with unique designs.

There are establishments in the district that process fibre into fabric and fabric into clothing and other textile products.

Once referred to as the “Manchester of Handloom” by Jawahar Lal Nehru, the country’s first prime minister, Mau in Eastern Uttar Pradesh now lives under dark clouds of uncertainty.

In the ‘city of weavers’, the weaving industry boasts a legacy of at least 500 years, but at the same time, the present holds nothing for them to be happy about.

The State’s apathy towards the weaving sector has badly affected the weavers’ community whose livelihoods largely rely on the business.

Inadequate power supply, untimely and prolonged power outages, increased rate of electricity per unit and the government’s ignorance have brought the famous and historical saree industry on the verge of closure.

Ansar Ahmad, a Mau resident, who holds a master’s degree in Human rights from Jamia Millia Islamia, a central university, is now working in a power loom for weaving sarees as there are no job prospects for him.

Speaking to Maktoob, Ahmad said, “Survival here with limited income resources is getting difficult day by day, people are migrating to gulf countries. They work more there but get reasonable and enough money for their hard work.”

He said, “We pay GST to the government for all our purchases of raw materials, but the government is not paying attention to our needs. We don’t get adequate money for the human labour we invest in producing the sarees.”

Ahmad said that there is no proper channel set up by the government between the seller and the buyer, and sometimes the trade ends up being unprofitable for the seller.

“We provide the buyer with the stock of sarees they order from us. Sometimes, we don’t even receive the money agreed upon on time, rather we get it later after years or don’t get it at all,” he added.

Ahmad feels that the biggest problem weavers face is the severe power shortage, due to which the majority of them who have shifted from the handloom to the powerloom suffer.

Earlier, as per the power subsidy introduced by the Mulayam Singh Yadav government in 2006, weavers would pay less than Rs150 per month for looms that consumed one horsepower of electricity. However, the second NDA government made unit-based consumption mandatory. This has raised the bills to around Rs3,000 per month.

Ahmad now looks at INDIA Alliance with a hope to solve the issues of unemployment and inflation, and to save and revive the Bunkar community and their weaving craft.

Almost every family in the town has one or two handlooms or power looms in their homes and raw materials like cotton yarn, silk, art silk, viscose, as well as locally sourced zari for embroidery.

Producing a Saree involves a meticulous and labour-intensive process, from sourcing the best multi-coloured fibres to dyeing them with precision. 

The process requires machine support as well. Major demands of the wewant the subsidy and reduction of GST on raw material to stand in the competition

Despite the immense labour, capital investment, and expertise involved, weavers said that they get inadequate returns for their hard work and the government is indifferent to their plight. 

Another weaver, Fayyaz Ahmad said, “The government has failed at empowering the Bunkar community. It should bring in a policy that can somehow benefit the weavers. We sell the goods to them, if they set up a price the trade can happen smoothly, without us being cheated by the buyers, who sometimes don’t even pay after receiving the order.”

He said, “Everyone notices the ration that the government gives but fails to see that the commercial cylinder we used to get for 500 rupees earlier now comes for more than a thousand rupees, how are they empowering the people?”

“The leaders we choose should help the citizens become independent”, he added.

Khursheed Ahmad, another small-scale trader, said that the government should provide an uninterrupted or increased power supply to the district and establish a proper process for smooth trade. 

He said, “Imposed GST has hit the business hard, sales and production have gone down by about significant per cent because we don’t get adequate price for the product we deliver.”

“We have survived for years with the support of businesses set up by us. But now, the government is trying to strangle us while they don’t provide any jobs. What should we do in this condition if not look for an alternative,” said Ahmad.

He added that the weaving community hope the INDIA alliance would provide a solution if they come to power.

When asked who should be the Prime Minister, he smiled and said, “Rahul Gandhi”.

Mau falls under the Ghosi Lok Sabha constituency and will be voting to elect its MP on June 1st, 2024. INDIA Alliance has fielded Samajwadi Party’s Bhumihar candidate Rajiv Rai against Arvind Rajbhar of Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party with BJP on a seat-sharing agreement, whereas, the BSP has fielded Balkrishan Chauhan.

Bunkars of Mau say whoever wins the seat, the outcome would be crucial to the fate of the Bunkar community in the region. 

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