Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): About 20,000 artisans in the towns of Chanderi, Bagh and Maheshwar in the state are in dire straits. Both waves of the corona pandemic have eaten away at their income.
With exhibitions banned and markets closed for long periods of time, their sales plummeted. Traders do not make new purchases because they are already encumbered with unsold inventory. The government has not given them any assistance either. “When our supreme leader asks us to become Atmanirbhar, how can we expect help? Asks Allauddin Ansari, a master craftsman from Maheshwar.
“The pool of workers is drying up”
According to Vijay Koli, a Chanderi master craftsman, the municipal town is home to around 25,000 families, of which 12,000 are associated with the production of Chanderi clothing. Koli, who employed about 50 people, has only 15. As demand has fallen to 5 percent, the cost of raw materials has skyrocketed. The price of the silk thread used in the manufacture of Chanderi sarees has risen from Rs 3,500 to Rs 6,000 per kg. “The government just forgot about us. Not to mention helping us, government agencies have stopped buying our shares, ”he says.
Price of the cotton fabric hike
Umar Faruk Khatri, a master craftsman from Bagh, says the pandemic has reduced their activity by 60 to 80 percent. He organized exclusive exhibitions of his products every year at the Gauhar Mahal in Bhopal. But they haven’t happened for two years now. He says some of his workers have migrated to Rajasthan and Gujarat in search of work. “We were able to sell a very small part of our production online. The rest is in the godowns, ”he says. He also complains of rising commodity prices. “Cotton fabric now costs Rs 50 per meter, compared to Rs 20 per meter before Covid-19 hits,” he said.
Cloth encased in godown
Another master craftsman from Bagh, Mohammed Bilal Khatri, says that he alone lost business worth Rs 20 lakh. He sold his products at exhibitions abroad, as well as in major cities in the country. But all that has now stopped. “I took a cash credit limit (CC) of Rs 25 lakh and I pay my workers a certain amount so that they can survive,” he says. About 10,000 yards of fabric and 1,000 costumes are locked in his godown. “Yes, the stores have reopened, but where are the shoppers? ” he asks. About 2,000 Bagh artisans depend on this work for their livelihood.
All the artisans say that, in their moments of distress, neither the Mignayanee chain of public department stores, nor the Laghu Udyog Nigam show up to buy their products.
“On the brink of famine”
According to Ansari, Maheshwari products worth Rs 10 crore are unsold in the city. “What is Rs 10 crore for the government? We just want them to buy our goods and make the payments as soon as possible, ”he says. “But now the workers are on the verge of starvation,” he said. About 5,000 Maheshwar artisans are associated with this work here. Most of them are doing odd jobs, like selling vegetables and working as laborers due to the pandemic, Ansari says.
Artisans say the government should lift the ban on exhibitions and do something to help artisans. “They are talented, self-respecting and hard-working people. They deserve help, ”Koli says.
Nationally renowned centers
Chanderi in Ashoknagar, Bagh in Dhar and Maheshwar in Khargone district are nationally renowned traditional textile production centers.