What would you do if you start losing your bread and butter? Scores of traditional brassware artisans in Moradabad, heart of India's brassware industry, now think it would make better business sense to start selling bread and butter instead.
Rising costs and an abolition of subsidy and income tax exemptions have eaten into about Rs 500 crore of the Rs 2,500 crore brassware industry that has made this town of artistry and squalor famous around the world.
But at the peak of the UP assembly polls, political parties do not seem too bothered about the withering industry. Moradabad went to the polls along with 57 constituencies on Wednesday.
It is said that other than those employed in the service industry, everyone in this town is related to the industry. In real terms, that means 10 lakh majority Muslim artisans and about 1,000 small and big export units, largely owned by Hindu traders.
“Political parties are only bothered about caste equations. The issues of the industry are taken to the authorities by traders’ and artisans' associations,'' says exporter Ravi Arora who has been in the business for 33 years. He added that several smaller export units have had to shut down as well after import price of brass scrap went up from Rs 115 a kg in October 2005 to Rs 260 a kg currently.
Moradabad traders import brass from Europe. A smaller percentage of brass is bought from the Indian Armed Forces, which often comes with live missiles and ammunition.
Designer Mohammad Akil is 35, has five children and earns about Rs 4,000 a month after toiling for more than 12 hours. Tough? Akil is actually lucky; Haji Mukhtiar, Mohammad Ahmed, Sohail Mohammad…the list is endless…have had to shut their design shops. Ahmed now runs a kirana store.