Lockdown Impact: Filled forms, have Bunkar Card, yet got no help from gov’t Part-10 of our on-going series based on CJP's Purvanchal fact-finding mission examining the decline of the traditional weaving industry

30, Sep 2021 | CJP Team

During our fact-finding mission in the Purvanchal region of Uttar Pradesh, we came across Riaz Ul Haq, a weaver from the Kareemuddin Pusatti neighbourhood in Ghosi, Mau. When we met him in November 2020, he said that despite having a Bunkar Card and filling various forms for help under the weaver assistance scheme, he got nothing.

“This area is inhabited predominantly by Muslim weavers. My entire family, including women, are involved in the business. Women do the work of ‘nari bharna’ or threading the spool along with other allied activities,” says Riyazyl Haq, who lives with his joint family of ten people. “My family has always lived here. My father Abdul Samad Dalal, and grandfather Inamul Haq used to add “satti” here,” he says, tracing his roots.

Haq, a middle-aged-man, is a weaver who owns and operates power looms. Before the pandemic, there was enough work, and he had even hired loom operators from other communities. “But after the Lockdown, work came to a grinding halt. I could not afford to keep workers any more. Those who had little children, were forced to go out and engage in daily wage labour,” he says. “Some people who could help their workers gave Rs 1,000 or Rs 500 if they could. But most people are in debt,” he says.

CJP ran a #CJPagainstHunger effort from March-July 2020 to help people during the Covid-19 induced lockdown. Determined to deepen associations with communities like Migrant Workers, Women led Urban Poor Households, and Urban Daily-Wage earners, we launched campaigns like #MigrantDiaries and #LetMigrantsWork. CJP also launched the #CJPfellowships to empower myriad marginalised communities. The Purvanchal Weaving Industry Fact-finding initiative aims to produce a report that will become a powerful analytical and advocacy tool further leading to programmatic grassroot initiatives to battle discrimination and division. Please Donate Now to help CJP reach more such communities across India.

Help from government authorities is also not forthcoming. “I got a Bunkar Card made by paying Rs 100, and even filled out forms under the weavers’ assistance scheme. Yet, I haven’t received a single penny,” he says. He has a Jan Dhan account but the money received in it was also a paltry sum. “I got Rs 500, thrice. They are just fooling us all with their schemes,” says an exasperated Haq. The Bunkar and Shilpi cards were introduced as a part of a government scheme to extend economic support to weavers and traditional artisans in the state. However, the implementation of the financial assistance scheme has been sporadic, with many eligible families still deprived of benefits.

It has been difficult to get orders, and the price that their work fetches is also miniscule. “One saree that is 5.5 or 6 meters long, is woven for Rs 30-35. So, if we weave five sarees in a day, depending on availability of electricity, the income is Rs 150 to Rs 175,” he shares. “Someone using better quality material could fetch Rs 200 to Rs 250 a day,” says Haq. Compare this to his heydays, when one machine could generate income worth Rs 35,000 to Rs 40,000 per month. “It is difficult to find buyers and the government does not buy from us. Even the subsidy of Rs 72 per loom has been stopped. Power supply has become expensive and erratic,” he laments.

Other facilities in the neighbourhood are also poor. “There is a government Madrasa, and a primary school. But no inter-college or Medical College,” he says, adding, “The nearest government hospital is three kilometers away.”

The Muslim community has also faced the brunt of the communally polarising reportage of the Tablighi Jamaat incident. “The way the media reported it, instilled fear in the hearts of people. Many were so afraid that they were reluctant to step out of their homes,” recalls Haq.


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