Mubarakpur is located in the Azamgarhdistrict of Uttar Pradesh. Historically, fine cotton fabrics have been woven here since the 14th century and it finds ecstatic mention in the diaries of traveller Ibn-Batuta. Ornate silks and brocades began to be woven here towards the 17th century under the patronage of Raja Mubaraksha. Today, there are about 30,000 families engaged in handloom weaving here but the cluster has not received much recognition in recent times and always lived in the shadow of neighbouring Banaras. In fact over the past few decades, Mubarakpur has become a cheap outsourcing destination for low grade, synthetic zarisarees that are bought by traders from Banaras and sold in small towns across Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Within the larger community of Ansari weavers there is a small community of Bohra Muslims who are the most disadvantaged. Their rate of literacy is low; each household has about 10-11 members while the average monthly income is about Rs 4,000 per household.
The weavers are severely indebted to the gadidars (traders) who exploit the situation by lowering the wages paid even further. In fact, a large number of weavers are able to survive only due to the food subsidy received from religious institutions in the region. The situation was further aggravated by a spate of communal riots a few years ago that further reduced the meagre volume of trade. The final blow was dealt by the perpetration of powerlooms which only served to reduce wage rates further.
If favourable conditions and sufficient market interventions are not created the fear of serious problems of destitution and under-consumption could arise, which might lead to migration and starvation deaths among the community.
November 2014-October 2017
Mubarakpur, District-Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh
Supported by the Sheikh Jaffer and NematullahEbrahim family foundation limited (SJNEFFL), this project is working on the following aspects of handloom-based livelihood development for the Bohra community in Mubarakpur:
- Creating an artisan-based Co-operative or Producer Company that would be owned and managed by the weavers
- Ensuring sufficient market linkages to provide year-round gainful employment to the weavers in the Co-operative
- Setting in place strong governance structure to prevent monopoly of the entity by a few weavers
- Building a corpus to support self-sufficiency of the cluster so as to eliminate dependence on exploitative stake-holders and buffer against market risks
- Greater involvement of women in the decision-making process.
- 2 SHGs have already been formed which will form the base of the Producer Company
- 20 weavers are being provided year-long working capital support and 30% of the stock created by them has already been liquidated
- The weavers are themselves trained in all production and marketing activities and are gradually taking charge of the same
- Both the SHGs created have elected office-bearers in place and conduct fortnightly meetings to resolve production-related issues
- There has been a 77% increase in the household income of the weavers engaged in the project