According to a report by India Today, Chikan handcraft industry in Lucknow is laid bare by covid. Some 500,000 people, including artisans and businessmen, are facing penury.
Chikan Embroidery doesn’t need an introduction, Lucknow’s famous handcraft has marked its quality worldwide. The narrow road from the ‘Gol Darwaza’ leading up to the famous Tunde Kebabi shop at Chowk crossing in Lucknow is the lifeline of the chikan handicraft industry.
This 1km road has a number of shops working on the same embroidery. The affect of covid is visible on the industry. The shops are open without any ongoing work. In the Khatri Market, There is a shop ‘Banarasi das and sons’. Shop owner Ashu Mahendru has been in the chikan business for the past 30 years, but it’s never been this bad.
“The biggest buyers of chikan clothes are tourists from outside. After the outbreak in March, tourism and trade came to a standstill. We still haven’t recovered.” His business was going nicely, he had a turnover of 1 crore last year. “But this year, due to Covid, we haven’t even done business worth Rs 10 lakh so far. With my past savings, I’ve been able to meet the expenses for the shop and employees. But if this situation persists for another 2-3 months, a large number of chikan traders will shut shop.
The crisis has affected 500,000 people including artisans and businessmen, associated with the chikan business in Lucknow. Shalu Tandon, of the Lucknow Chikan Handicraft Association, says, “The chikan businessman does not even have the cash to pay the artisans for the finished goods from the previous order. And there’s little hope that the situation will improve this year. ”Notably, In a normal year, the annual turnover of the chikan business in Lucknow is around Rs 2,000 crore.
Another artisan, Anwar Nawab 70, he lives in a building which once used to be crowded with poor youth whom Anwar taught the embroidery but now its all silence. Anwar says, “Due to the Corona pandemic, the number of clothes coming for chikan work and zardozi is down by 90 per cent. Previously, 15 to 20 dresses used to come for chikan work and zardozi everyday; we haven’t even had a 100 dresses since March this year. Artisans working in chikan work and zardozi have moved to other businesses to feed their families.”
Munawwar, who works as a chikan and zardozi worker under Anwar, has now started driving e-rickshaws on rent. Munawwar says, “I used to earn Rs 10,000 a month doing chikan work and zardozi, but now I have started selling vegetables and driving the e-rickshaw to feed the family. I make Rs 3,000 a month, which somehow helps the family from going hungry. The children have missed their studies though. “
Chikan work include a whole procedure and printing patterns is one of the important part of this embroidery. Kaptan Kuan Mohalla, in Chowk, is famous for printing on clothes. There are about 50 families here who have been doing this ancestral work for many decades. One of them is 32-year-old Abdullah Zubair.
“Till February this year, 10 to 12 pieces used to be printed per day, but now we are lucky if we get one or two dresses. According to the fabric, we used to get Rs 30 to 40 on the printing per piece. I used to earn about Rs 10,000 a month. But since March there’s nothing.” Moreover, Chikan clothes are washed at several stages before reaching the shops for sale.
Notably, Lalji Tondon, late BJP leader was minister of housing and urban development in the state government in 2001. He set up the dhobi ghat at Hata Surat Singh specially for washing of chikan clothes, he was himself a resident of chowk. For washing the clothes, five water cesspools (hauj) were also built here. To ensure steady supply of water, a water pump was also installed.
Rajesh Kumar says, “Nearly 2,000 clothes were washed daily at the dhobi ghat. A family could earn about Rs 6,000-10,000 a month washing clothes. There’s almost no work now due to the closure of the businesses. ” Ajay Kumar, a resident of Dhobiana, says that to cover household expenses he’s had to sell the family jewellery.
GST impliment has also been a reason when Businessmen were disappointed. Provision of 5 per cent GST for purchases of one thousand pieces or less and 12 per cent for purchases more than this. Chikan businessman Deepu Khatri explains: “Chikan work is pure handcraft. Despite this, the chikan business has been brought under GST. This has led to a rise in the prices of chikan clothes and a decline in business. ” However, Under ‘One District One Project’ (ODOP) scheme, UP Government has tried to solve some of the issues related to Chikan industry. “The government is committed to helping Lucknow’s chikan business in every way possible. I myself am monitoring it at my level,” says Navneet Sehgal, additional chief secretary, small and medium industries department.
More than a 100,000 chikan and zardozi artisans are on the brink of starvation in Lucknow and surrounding areas.