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Weavers fall prey to adverse conditions

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  • Shaji John K
    Weavers fall prey to adverse conditions 24 Jul 2007, 0444 hrs IST,TNN LUCKNOW: Deep in the labyrinth of stucco buildings, in a dark cave like warehouse,
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 24, 2007
      Weavers fall prey to adverse conditions
      24 Jul 2007, 0444 hrs IST,TNN

      LUCKNOW: Deep in the labyrinth of stucco buildings, in a dark cave
      like warehouse, Mohammed Javen once spent his days weaving golden and
      silver flowers across exquisite silk sarees in Sarai Mahona weavers
      locality of Varanasi.

      Today he carries bricks at a construction site in city suburbs.

      "Javen is brave enough to bid adieu to his family business, as many
      who reached their end soon after failing to find a job in the silk
      producing units of Varanasi," said Aftab Ansari of Bunkar-Dastkar
      Adhikaar Manch. Take the example of sixty-year-old Quasim, who was
      known for the finesse in zari borders on silk sarees. The man had been
      a weaver since the age of ten but went virtually jobless since early
      in 2007.

      For over five months he and his family survived by selling whatever
      belongings and utensils they had. One night in May this year, Quasim
      and his family could not stand hunger. "Unable to bear the pain of his
      children, Quasim went out of his house never to return home again. His
      family filed an FIR. Quasim's body was found later in the nearby
      well," he recalled with tears in his eyes.

      A 20-year-old Neeraj Patel, too, consumed poison failing to find a
      job, said another weaver Siddique Hasan. This native of Lallahpur
      weavers's locality, had the burden of two younger brothers, an ailing
      mother and father.

      "For over two months he went out in search of a job. Once, he was
      humiliated by the gaddidaar (weaver exporter). The boy was shattered
      and bought a toxic substance on his way back home. He quietly consumed
      the poison to relieve himself from the humiliation," Hasan confided.

      "Silk from the dragon land has invaded our territory and we are
      striving hard to meet two ends," rued Aftab Ansari, adding,
      "technology and fashion, too, are our enemy. The burden of credit
      makes matters worse." Notably, there are three categories of weavers -
      gaddidars or rich weavers, weavers (those who take a loom on rent for
      weaving) and weaver labourers. Among all, weaver labourers are the
      worst affected.

      There are over two lakh weavers in and around Varanasi. But less than
      55,000 get a job in a year leaving the remaining 1.5 lakh weavers jobless.

      "Almost all weavers are either low caste Hindus or Muslims — the two
      communities which have been marginalised by the upper caste.
      Illiteracy is another problem which pushes the weavers to seek help
      from money lenders and credit-giving gaddidars. Not to forget the evil
      of government apathy," Lenin Raghuvanshi, an activist working for the
      upliftment of weavers, says.

      People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) which has been
      following the issue closely found that in the last three years, over
      50 adults and children from weaving families have starved to death
      instead of enduring poverty. With each passing day, the skilled hands
      of weavers are being engaged in other jobs such as driving rickshaw,
      selling vegetables, laying roads and even begging.

      Weaver's aren't alone to bear the brunt, the condition of their family
      is worse. "Tuberculosis and malnutrition is common," Uttkarsh a
      research scholar studying `quality of life of weavers in Varanasi'
      said. An typical example is the case of Iqbal's parents who went to
      their graves not knowing that they were entitled to free
      anti-tubercular medicines.

      That's not all, 50 percent of children in weaver families are
      malnutritioned, concluded pilot survey conducted NGOs in some of the
      weaver communities. "In blatant violation of Supreme Court orders, a
      number of children can be seen tosurvive on a mere bowl or two of
      plain rice and some bread. Some times they get nothing at all," said
      an activist.

      Under such circumstances, education is a distant dream. "What do you
      expect a weaver to do with such a meagre earning of Rs 35-40 per day?
      Buy medicines, food or send his children to school," asked Aftab. But
      after a few seconds, he said, "I just pray that things will improve."
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