Hands that weave heritage Banarasis, are now reaching out for help! Rising electricity rates, harassment, add to the woes of weavers of Varanasi who are struggling to survive

29, Apr 2022 | Fazalur Rehman Ansari

The looms of Varanasi come to a grinding halt without warning. It is yet another power cut, a regular in the area. However, even these regular power cuts, somehow do not reflect in the bills that the weavers are forced to pay. According to the weavers community, this electricity crisis is common in the prime minister’s parliamentary constituency.

The weaving community here, still reeling under the impact of the Covid lockdown, and the pandemic itself, is now also dealing with the added burden due to the erratic electricity supply and soaring prices. The angry weavers say that they had the “old electricity system according to the Act of 2006 Electricity Department” where powerloom weavers got electricity at the rate of Rs.70-75 per month. However, the Uttar Pradesh government abolished this system, and made new rules.

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The weavers will now have to pay a per-unit electricity bill. This is going to be several times higher than the previous monthly bill, as they use power looms. The weavers say that they are already near starvation. Some have begun selling things from the home to get a few rupees to survive the day. Some others say, they will sell their powerloom to the scrap dealer to feed their family.

Adding to their woes are the increased electricity rates. The weavers say they are cornered. The community leaders say they have appealed to the Prime Minister, who is also the local MP, as well as UP Chief Minister Adityanth. However, their pleas have gone unheard.

Instead, to add insult to injury, the weavers say many of them are being harassed by recovery agents who claim to be from the electricity department. The agents claim they have instructions from the government to “get money from the weavers.” In some areas the electricity connections are cut off without warning.

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However, the weavers say, they stand united in their demand to waive the high electricity bills, and re-implement the old system of electricity at a flat rate.

The weavers of Varanasi, have held peaceful protests by shutting their looms many times in the past several months. Varanasi or Banaras is famous all over the world for its Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb and its beautiful Banarasi sarees. But today the weavers who make that heritage garment are struggling to keep their own heritage alive. It is very important to save the unique culture, art, skills, handicrafts, and livelihood of the lakhs of weavers.

Hopefully the administration will listen to and address their woes.

Meet Fazalur Rehman Ansari

A weaver and a social worker, Fazlur Rehman Ansari hails from Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. Over the years, he has been raising issues concerning the weavers’ community. He has led the community in demanding their human rights, as citizens, and skilled craftspersons who keep the handicraft and heritage of the region alive.

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