‘I am paid Rs 14 for weaving two feet of carpet’
Carpet weaving on handlooms is fraying at the edges for the Julaha community of weavers of Jasowar Pahadi in Mirzapur district, who are unable to make ends meet anymore.
Brijendra Dubey 2 Jun 2023 10:17 AM GMT
Jasowar Pahadi (Mirzapur), Uttar Pradesh
It is not uncommon for the visitor to Jasowar Pahadi village in Mirzapur district to hear the rhythmic clatter of hand looms. The source of livelihood for the Julaha community of weavers of the village that has about 3,000 people in it, is carpet weaving.
“Before the lockdown we wove carpets out of cotton yarn, now we use wool,” Irfan, a 45-year-old weaver, told Gaon Connection.
The change from cotton durries to woollen carpets has not been a happy one, the weavers say. “We would buy our own raw materials and weave the durries that were then taken away by hawkers who sold them for us. They even came home to give us the money. But the hawkers have stopped visiting,” Irfan said, a tinge of sadness in his voice.
From independent weavers, most of the 500 weavers of Jasowar Pahadi have become daily wage labourers taking their orders from middlemen and traders. “There was a time we were the maliks (owners), now we are mazdoors (labourers),” Irfan added.
Mirzapur and the neighbouring district of Bhadohi are kaleen-making hubs in the state, with thousands of weavers engaged directly or indirectly in the industry. But the fortunes of the unorganised sector of weavers, like those in Jasowar Pahadi, are fraying.
There are hundreds and thousands of weavers in the region whose forefathers were also carpet weavers. It is believed they go back to the times of the Mughals. But over the years, for various reasons, not least of it the pandemic, the weavers are wallowing in abject poverty.
Big export houses and carpet traders provide the raw material of wool to the weavers and pay them a pittance per day depending on how much they have woven. The carpets, once completed, are exported to several countries. According to news reports, several carpets from this area are gracing the walls of the new parliament house, in New Delhi.
“There are about 76,000 people directly or indirectly involved in the carpet industry, and there are about 3000 weaving units in the district,” Ashok Kumar, deputy commissioner of the Industries Department, Mirzapur, told Gaon Connection. The carpets are exported to Germany, the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, France and other countries, he added.
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In the Jasowar Pahadi village, which lies about 10 kilometres from the district headquarters and over 280 kilometres from the state capital Lucknow, even the women weave. “After we finish with our house chores, we sit down to weave,” Razia Begum, Irfan’s wife, told Gaon Connection.
“Running the house with just his earnings is not enough. It is still difficult because I can’t weave more than a hundred rupees worth of carpet a day. I am paid Rs 14 for weaving two feet of the carpet, ” the 30-year-old added.
Irfan and Razia have five children to feed and look after with their meagre earnings. “Earlier a husband and wife could easily make up to Rs 400 to Rs 500 a day. Now we are lucky if we make Rs 200 a day,” Irfan said.
Baby, a 33-year-old inhabitant of Jasowa Pahadi village, had similar complaints. “Women could easily earn about Rs 250 a day before the lockdown. But now earning even Rs 100 is a struggle,”, told Gaon Connection.
She said that there was no guarantee she would get that many orders to weave carpets. “I often work as a hired labour with someone else,” she said. Baby said that there were times they had to borrow money in order to eat that day. “Even if I earn Rs 100, the entire money is only good enough for vegetables for a day,” she pointed out.
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Not too far away, Sabana sat in the sweltering heat of May surrounded by woollen yarns that she was weaving into a carpet. “I do this in the hope I can educate my children. Between my husband and I we make about Rs 450 a day. It is hard work,” the 34-year-old told Gaon Connection.
Her children are in the government school, and she said at the moment they could not even dream of sending them to a private school. “There is no sign of our wages increasing,” she said.
Hard labour of handloom weaving
Sitting in a mud house, weaving ceaselessly, Mehjabeen explained the tedious business of setting up the loom and weaving took up all day. “It takes a lot of effort to even earn Rs 100 a day. It is because of no money I could not finish school,” the 20-year-old said.
She had to drop out after she completed her fifth standard. “I feel bad about that every single day, but I had no option,” she added.
“The Industries department, under the One District One Product (ODOP) initiative is offering training and loans to craftspeople, and imparting livelihood skills through various schemes,” deputy commissioner, Ashok Kumar, said. “Anyone who is interested can get in touch with the office of the Industries department,” he said.
“We in Jasowar Pahadi village are not aware of any such schemes or workshops. But, they would go a long way in lifting us out of poverty,” Sabana said.