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Rs 3000 cr loss: Centre, UP govt 'neglecting' traditional Banarasi fabric, allied activities

By Our Representative 
An on-ground fact finding report by the the human rights organisation, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), taking a nuanced look at the plight of the traditional weaving industry in Purvanchal (eastern Uttar Pradesh), has estimated that the handicraft, handloom and power loom business suffered a loss Rs 3,000 crore during and after the lockdown.
The report is based on a survey by a 17-member team led by Dr Muniza Khan, a Varanasi-based social science researcher, which conducted detailed interviews of 204 respondents, including 37 video interviews and 19 audio-interviews in the neighbourhoods of those engaged in weaving the famous Banarasi fabric and allied activities.
The locations of the respondents were: Varanasi (13 locations), Gorakhpur (Rasoolpur, Purana Gorakhnath), Azamgarh (Mubarakpur, Ibrahimpur, Shahpur) and Mau (Ghosi, Madhuban).
The report states, "The artisanal weaving industry as well as the Zardozi industry, that has been in a state of crisis for decades given the ambivalent, if not hostile policies adopted by the government, slid into further despair due to the sudden and unplanned lockdown."
Pointing out that it caused "severe economic and structural blow due to the work stoppages, and led to acute distress, indebtedness, beggary and hunger that any society and state should be ashamed of", the report alleges, "Neither the state government of Uttar Pradesh nor the Centre have shown any sensitivity to the plight of hundreds of thousands of weavers and their families so far, and have failed to respond to the crisis."
The report says, a staggering 89 per cent of those interviewed stated that due to a trust deficit, they simply could not or did not approach the local and state government for a variety of relief measures: food rations, monetary assistance, inflated electricity bills, sewage related and other civic problems. Of the 11 per cent who did, they were dissatisfied with the response.
Pointing towards absence of access to Central schemes, the report says, "The Central government’s much publicised Pradhan Mantri Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) (launched on May 1, 2016) has simply not reached persons on the ground. Only 10 percent of the women among our respondents were even registered to get Ujjwala Gas under this scheme; the rest remain excluded, despite multiple attempts to apply for the same."
It continues, "The respondents also found the Prime Minister Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) difficult to access. A staggering 52 percent of the respondents simply did not have the account. Of the 48 percent who did, only 58 percent received cash transfers more than once."
According to the report, "The weavers who are wage workers or those who have just a few looms belong to communities like Muslim Ansari, Dalit, OBC and some are Muslims who hail from more privileged castes. Today a vast section of this artisanal industry is completely impoverished and invisibilised. Informed and reasoned public dialogue is needed to influence not just political but economic policy and decision making."
Most often, women weavers' work remains unpaid as it is considered part of their household chores
Especially reaching out to women and girls (24 percent of the total respondents), as they "form the backbone of this industry, with their work ranging from actual weaving to allied activities like spool feeding, saree decoration and finishing work", the team reports, "We discovered that most often, their work remains unpaid, even in this day and age, as it is considered part of their household chores."
It asserts, "The testimonies of these women and girls were sorry tales of malnutrition and attendant health issues, apart from impoverishment, hunger and domestic abuse. Many girls were forced to drop out of school."
"The overall impact of a brute form of targeted communal violence and politics over the past three decades has also had its specific impact on women, specifically Muslim women. This splintering of the gender identity along communal lines has deeply affected traditional gender-driven solidarities that often breached denials and divides of the kind that swept India during the Covid-19 pandemic", the report adds.
The report claims, "A significant number of respondents spoke of economic boycotts at work in neighbourhoods days and weeks after the spread of the virus was deliberately misconstrued and associated with one community (with terms like coronona-jihad, superspreaders of the virus., being used).
The report, invoking the 2011, UN Principles on Business and Human Rights, urges corporations, export houses and brands that "thrive on this rich and traditional art and craft, to respect standards of dignified wage and social security as it is the creator who is central to the products manufactured."

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