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Monday, Oct 21, 2019

Iconic Kolhapuri chappals in a fight for survival

Recognised as the pride of Maharashtra, the production of these slippers in Kolhapur’s cottage industry has taken a hard hit due to acute labour shortage

pune Updated: Apr 27, 2019 14:29 IST
Parth Welankar and Pratham Gokhale
Parth Welankar and Pratham Gokhale
Hindustan Times, Pune
Woman makes Kolhapuri chappals in Kolhapur. Number of chappals being made daily has reduced.
Woman makes Kolhapuri chappals in Kolhapur. Number of chappals being made daily has reduced.(Pratham Gokhale/HT Photo)
         

: Acute labour shortage has hit the iconic Kolhapuri chappals industry which is now struggling for survival. Market leaders say that unless some concrete steps are taken to revive the industry, the 400-year-old tradition would soon become extinct.

Recognised as the pride of Maharashtra, these flat-soled leather slippers have been part of the traditional Maharashtrian attire and a speciality of this southern Maharashtra city for generations.

Now, however, the production of these slippers in Kolhapur’s cottage industry has taken a hard hit due to acute labour shortage.

As against an estimated 500 small and big manufacturers in 2014, the number has dropped to 200 today, said Rohit Gavali, owner of Tip Top Chappal, one of the oldest manufacturers of these slippers in the Subhashnagar area of Kolhapur.

Gavali who is in this business for the last four decades said, “The average production five years ago of 10,000 chappals per month has declined by a drastic 60 per cent to 4,000 chappals. The sole reason for this is the decline in our manufacturing capacity.”

Sandeep Satpute, a worker in one of the manufacturing units said unlike in the past, there are other modes of employment available and therefore, the decline in the availability of labour. According to him, people now chose to migrate to other cities and do less strenuous work with better payment. “Those like me continue to work in these units as Kolhapur is our hometown and we don’t intend to move to another city,” said Satpute.

Like the manufacturers, the retailers too lament the situation.

Kolhapuri chappal market in Kolhapur.
Kolhapuri chappal market in Kolhapur. ( Pratham Gokhale/HT Photo )

Prashad Shete, owner of Pooja Footwear in the famous ‘chappal lane’ called Papachi Tikati, said because of the labour shortage, manufacturers now are compelled to produce basic designs of the Kolhapuri chappal. Consequently, customers don’t find enough variety.

Also, these chappals, ranging in price from Rs 300 to Rs 1,600, have lost their appeal due to competition from other brands of footwear, said Rohit Gavali.

Labourers are paid daily wages on the number of chappals manufactured daily. The payment is barely Rs 60 per pair which was Rs 30 five years ago. “This is not enough for our livelihood,” said Sanjay Satpute a worker in one of the manufacturing units.

First Published: Apr 27, 2019 14:26 IST

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