Varanasi (UP): Famous for its Banarasi sarees and wooden toys, the city of Varanasi is now wooing a global clientele with its famous glass beads.
These glass beads are among the 12 products from Varanasi included for Geographical Indication (GI) tags. The Varanasi glass beads industry -- which dates back to 200 years -- produces beeds used in artificial jewellery, adornments for curtains and door hangings etc.
With the US government increasing the import duty by 20 per cent on Chinese products, the decision has come as a boon for city's manufacturers of glass beads.
The local glass beads industry has witnessed a 20 per cent increase in production even during the Covid-19 pandemic, courtesy the Yogi Adityanath government's 'Varanasi Glass Beads Cluster' scheme under the 'skill development' programme.
The estimated outlay of the scheme is Rs 50 crore, 70 per cent of which will be borne by the government and the remaining 30 per cent by the companies associated with the industry.
According to Umesh Kumar Singh, Joint Commissioner, Industrial Development Department, Varanasi, a village in Rohaniya block has been selected for a cluster shed and will start functioning soon.
He said the production, demand and marketing of the glass bead products will be promoted under the Industrial Cluster Scheme by the state government.
The craftsmen employed in the industry will get further training in the traditional style of making glass beads while opportunities of self-employment will be generated. The cluster will invite investments, give employment to more than 10,000 people, boost exports and generate new markets for raw material.
The production of glass bead products is mainly confined to Varanasi, Firozabad and Purdilpur (Hathras) in Uttar Pradesh. Besides the domestic market, it is exported to nearly 70 countries, including the US, Europe, Brazil, Italy, France, Germany, Kenya, Columbia and the UK.
"Majority of the skilled labourers in this industry came from rural areas but was unable to work at the factories due to the nationwide lockdown. The administration then ensured that the workers associated with the bead-manufacturing units do not face any problems in communting to work," said Ashok Gupta, a leading businessman of glass beads.
Nearly 70 per cent of the workforce engaged in the glass beads industry are women, who come from the nearby villages and contribute to their household economy.
"Weaving the beads to finally transform them into attractive artificial jewelleries form an important part of the production line and this process is executed by skilled women workers. The women not only contribute to their household economy but also pass on their skills to other females in their family, who in the future have an option to join the workforce," Gupta explained.
GI products and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) industries comprise between 40 and 45 per cent of the country's annual exports and the share of glass beads is quite substantial.