Madhya Pradesh: Danger of job loss looms over handloom craftsmen amid corona pandemic

Bhopal: A danger of job loss looms over the handloom craftsmen of Madhya Pradesh because of the corona pandemic and the subsequent lockdown. COVID-19 has ruined their business, said national and state award winner master craftsmen on the eve of the National Handloom Day. When Free Press wanted to know about how their business is doing in the times of corona, they said the lockdown devoured 90% of their business. They are worried about their future. They fear lest the industry should close. They said that they have not received a penny as help from the government to date.

"We have suffered a loss of around Rs 50 lakh over the past five months. Markets are closed, buses are not running, the transport system is erratic. Orders placed by firms in Mumbai, Delhi and even US and Australian firms have been cancelled. Expos at London and in America, in which we were to display our products, have been cancelled. Around 45-50 members of my extended family are dependent on this business. As for government help, Modi is making only promises. The announcement of Rs 20 lakh crore package had aroused great hopes but we haven’t received a penny. We are in talks with Amazon for the online sale of our products," said Mohammed Yusuf Khatri, master craftsman, Bagh print.

 Mohammed Yusuf Khatri, master craftsman, Bagh print
Mohammed Yusuf Khatri, master craftsman, Bagh print

"We have been ruined. More than 100 weavers who worked for us have been rendered jobless. Some are doing manual labour others are selling vegetables from door-to-door. Our buyers were mega stores in Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi, Benaras etc. They all are closed and so why would they buy our products. We were selling around Rs 2 lakh worth of saris every week. I was to participate in shows in Mauritius, Dubai and London. They have been cancelled. As for online sales, I don’t think saris can be sold online. Buyers like to touch saris, drape them on themselves before buying. That is not possible online," said Allauddin Ansari, master craftsmen, Maheshwari print.

Allauddin Ansari, master craftsmen, Maheshwari print
Allauddin Ansari, master craftsmen, Maheshwari print

"Around 1,000 looms in Chanderi have closed down. I am 73 and never in my life have I seen such a crisis. Around 25 members of my family are dependent on the business. We had five looms, of which only two are functional at present. The businessmen are taking full advantage of the situation. They are offering us Rs 1,000 for a sari which they earlier bought for, say, Rs 4,000. As for raw material, those having stocks are selling it. Most have exhausted their stocks and are unable to replenish them. We haven’t received any help from the government. We have also not demanded anything," said Tulsiram Koli, master craftsmen, Chanderi print.

Tulsiram Koli, master craftsmen, Chanderi print
Tulsiram Koli, master craftsmen, Chanderi print

"We are in great distress. We have 50 looms, of which we will have to shut around 20 soon. It costs around Rs 20,000 per month to run each loom. Sales have been reduced to almost zero. We used to produce around Rs five lakh worth of products every month. Stocks worth more than Rs 35 lakh are lying unsold. Earlier, we used to pay around Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 per week to the 50 weavers we employed. Not, we are paying them just Rs 500 per week. The government is not helping us at all. We should be given subsidised loans if we are to survive," said Geeta Koli, master craftswoman, Chanderi print.

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