Opened with a lot of fanfare and tall promises in 1994, Kaleen Kendra, a cluster of 22 industrial sheds set up to promote carpet manufacturing by handloom weavers in Gwalior’s Barai village, today wears a deserted look and its fate is left at the mercy of contractors and middlemen, allegedly due to officials’ apathy and neglect.
A joint venture of the district industry centre (DIC) and Hasta Shilp Vikas Nigam (HSVM) set up some 25 km from Gwalior, it aimed to promote skill development and empowerment of weavers engaged in carpet manufacturing through a set of regular training module, design, dying, cutting and marketing of their stuff under one cluster.
Sources said due to the government’s apathy over the years, the carpet manufacturing by handloom weavers has now fallen into the hands of the unorganized sector — primarily contractors and middlemen. This hub was once a vibrant site equated with the likes of famous Chanderi Saree craft in Guna district but now its weavers somehow manage to make both ends meet, said sources.
HSVM and DIC officials, however, don’t seem much concerned about the project’s fate. HSVM manager DC Tiwari said many factors, including fund crunch, were responsible for closure of the training center. “Lack of interest by entrepreneurs from Gwalior due to the 25 km distance also impacted the project adversely.
DIC general manager ML Atal said their role was limited to land allotment while rest of the issues like project implementation and operation were responsibility of HSVM.
According to rough estimates, more than 50 handloom units in Barai are engaged in production of carpets mostly by from the local Muslim community. All sizes of carpets with different designs are produced by the weavers there.
However a large number of weavers now operate from within their houses outside the cluster area as very few have survived within the designated zone at Barai.
Talking to HT on Wednesday, 24-year-old weaver Farzaan said how difficult it has become for weavers to survive despite working so hard. “It takes about two to two-and-a-half months to produce one 4 feet-by-6 feet carpet. It fetches around Rs 6,000. It means we earn just less than Rs 100 per day. The raw material including cotton and wool yarn etc are being provided by contractors who also decide the design. Colour synchronization together with weaving is not only time consuming exercise but also requires precision”, she said.
She said she learnt the trade of weaving from her elder sister who had shifted from Barai after marriage. “A meager earning after hard work of more than six hours a day is not enough even for our basic needs”, added Farzaan.
Another weaver Rafiq Khan blamed the government, especially the HSVM and the DIC officials for apathy and negligence that pushed the weaving business into uncertainty.
Khan said some parts of cluster area spread over an area of 5 hectares were taken over by Mandi Board to construct a subzi mandi site there. “Sheds were abandoned due to lack of facilities, poor maintenance or incomplete work. Earlier tall promises made by the government to provide raw material and buy-back arrangement of finish products (carpets) were not fulfilled. So we have ended up with private contractors and middleman. The budget allocation for maintenance of sheds and the cluster area site including sprawling lawns remain on paper alone”, he alleged.