Prime minister Narendra Modi, who is also the MP Parliament from Varanasi, announced the long-awaited economic relief package last week, although the expectations of people from his own constituency seem to have been shattered. The people of Varanasi are concerned about how the government is going to support the local industries and cater to their requirements.
Varanasi has a chain of MSMEs, that makes the city stand out and attract people from all over the world. While the PM made suggestions about going local and supporting small businesses, his relief package does not pay any special attention to the thousands of families dependent on the local industries like the brass workers, craftsmen making wooden toys, Pink Meenakaari artisans, the stone craft workers of Ramnagar, Zari/Zardozi workers or the women who have been doing hand embroidery for years in the city. The boatmen of Kashi should be given an allowance of Rs 10,000 per month for upcoming six months as their occupation totally depends on tourism, and the current situation has made it difficult for them to survive. It is to remember that the PM expressed sympathy towards the boatmen during his election speech.
Identifying the actual needs of the city, there is a need for special attention towards the state of the artists and artisans, who act as the backbone in the economy of eastern Uttar Pradesh. It is highly essential to provide remedies and accommodate the needs of such people with special care in the MSME package.
- Compensation for the local craftsmen and industries
- Boatmen should be given Rs 10,000 per month for the upcoming six months.
- Zari Zardosi women should be given Rs 7,500 per month along with the advantages of any other government scheme that they qualify for. Their numbers in Varanasi district do not exceed 20,000 in total.
- Pink Meenakaari craftsmen should be given Rs 15,000 per month for four months, and reviewed closer to the wedding season. The total number of crafts people associated in this requisite art form is not even 10,000 in number.
- The registered handloom workers should be given Rs 7,500 per month for the next nine months, plus the electricity waiver.
- Beaten copper metal workers, not greater than 5,000 in this region, should be given Rs 7,500 for next nine months.
- The stone craft workers of Ramnagar should be given Rs 7,500 per month for the next nine months. These craftsmen need great support as the number of families involved in this craft is very small.
- The wooden toy craftsmen, totalling about 2,000 only, should also be given Rs 7,500 per month for the next nine months.
- Mirzapur Dhurrie and Bhadohi-Khamaria-Varanasi-Shahjahanpur hand knotted carpet weavers should be given Rs 7,500 per month for the next nine months.
- Jaunpur black pottery workers should be given Rs 7,500 for six months.
- Women working in fabric, saree industry, handloom or power loom, should be given a sum of Rs 7,500 per month for the next six months in addition to the benefits of Ujjwala scheme and other government benefits.
Every artisan should be connected with a digital shop set up by the government, facilitating a platform to create a marketplace for products of the artisan, with competitive market price. The products shall be linked with the existing institutions like NIFT and NID to provide design upgrades with the help of e-Pathshalas. The government should be responsible to take care of the work sites, upkeep the listings, photography of products, and maintenance of the website. It will act as a great boost for the workers involved in the handicrafts industry from the eastern UP region, especially Varanasi.
The age-old musical tradition of the Banaras Gharana has always been a huge attraction to the classical artistes. It can be created into a wonderful opportunity to encourage the young talents to come forward and seek guidance under the leadership of senior artistes, who can provide a platform to nurture and showcase the talent in the music industry. The hub of these artistes and musicians is located near the Kabir Math and Ramapura area. Government should bring forward All India Radio and Doordarshan to record these artists perform and pay them an honorarium to support themselves. It will not only become a matter of interest across the country but will open up avenues of international opportunities for the community.
While these may seem small numbers for the central government, this form of direct intervention will ensure that our art and craft forms are given the correct impetus while ensuring that the economy of the city is nurtured during these pandemic times.
Gaurav Kapoor is a first generation politician in the Congress party based out of Varanasi. He is currently a secretary in the research department for AICC looking after Uttar Pradesh....