‘Not a Single Piece Sold in Past 5 Months’: Weavers of Varanasi

“We resorted to selling paan because that can easily be set up with minor investment,” says a weaver.

Published
My Report
4 min read
Weavers in Varanasi have been struggling since the past 5 months as they are unable to sell their goods.
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We talk about the situation of Varanasi textile industry from an aerial point of view, but viewed even from the lens of economy, the circumstances are no different.

Uncertainty is looming large each passing day as no amount of assurance from any institution is reaching the lanes of the weavers of Varanasi. Being completely out of work consecutively for five months, each passing day pushes them to more gruesome instances.

From the perspective of livelihood, a large chunk is barely meeting its daily needs. According to them, they have not witnessed or received any help from the government, at least in the localities of Peeli Kothi. Being born and brought up here in the lanes of Peeli Kothi, the situation is quite evident to my own consciousness as I witness it very often among my people.

The affairs of weavers are closely associated on part of my ancestral occupation and my father has been the president of Azad Bunker Union.

Family Resorts to Selling Paan

Here, families had to resort to occupations which already exist in the same vicinity because they require relatively less investment. Some families had to push their kids into child labour where they go stray and sell paans rolled into beetle leaves.

Sahil prepares a paan while his father is away.
Sahil prepares a paan while his father is away.
(Photo Courtesy: Nasir Saboor)
“For months we haven’t seen any recurring and we couldn’t find any job that suited our skills. Ultimately we had to resort to selling paan, because this is what we have seen and can easily be setup with minor investment,” said Haider, father of Sahil. 

Sahil, who is aged 11 and takes care of the paan shop when his father is away.

Although, there are individuals and local organisations still delivering the essentials to the poor, the frequency of such activities has been slowed as things are getting uncertain with each passing day.

Transactions Stop, Stocks Pile Up

Things are by far more serious for weavers as they don’t enjoy the liberty of demanding their dues from their masters.

To put it in more subtle way, the majority of the traders or Gaddidaar’s are located in the place called Chowk, where the weavers take the finished goods to sell. Since the nationwide lockdown began, the transaction of goods and money halted and stock of goods has piled up.

Weavers feel agitated they still look for their goods to be sold.
Weavers feel agitated they still look for their goods to be sold.
(Photo Courtesy: Nasir Saboor)

“They (the gaddidars) are not accepting the goods which had already been ordered. Not a single piece has been sold in last five months nor have they allowed any payment to pass from the bank. They are completely out of contact, leaving us directionless,” said Amjad who specialises in handloom weaving.

Since then, the weavers have been unable fetch payments for what was already sold or even draw payments through bank cheques, which were already issued to them.

It is not very difficult for all of us to perceive these financial imbalances and stress upon the cash-flow as contribution of the pandemic. But, the real catch lies in the temperament of the traders, who have used this opportunity to exploit the weavers and increase the profitability.

The traders union is known to be regulated by the Kashi Vastra Udyog. The union had asked its members to make payments to the weavers.

The orders were knocked back by the traders on the ground of financial instability. However, a contrasting veracity is witnessed in this case. The majority of the traders who claim to be financially unstable are bidding on the weavers stock at half the price. That is, they are ever ready to buy goods at half the price or even lower but defer settling old dues on the ground of financial instability.

Electricity Charge Are Another Burden

Although the weavers feel that things would turn out better after the pandemic is over, they are once again burdened with excessive electricity charges exempting the ongoing weaver’s subsidies causing extreme financial pain and pushing them to the verge of another crisis.

Increased electricity charges hamper weavers’ work.
Increased electricity charges hamper weavers’ work.
(Photo Courtesy: Nasir Saboor)
“Earlier we had to pay less than Rs 100 per machine for a month, now they have removed this subsidy out of nowhere and we would be charged around Rs 2,000 for the same. How is this valid? We barely earn Rs 5,000-6,000 per month with a family of six people and this is an attack on our survival,” said Naseer who resides in the Jaitpura area of Varanasi.

According to weavers, no government or institution can offer any way out on the issues of weavers except for electricity subsidies. The current internal challenges are more severe than the real recession.

Though unconventional, the real recessions are more kind as they are transient and are less enslaving in nature. But what government could do is to reinstate the electricity subsidy.

(All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

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