Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Voice of Voiceless weavers

Voice of Voiceless weavers …………
On 23 May 2006, a Round table meeting was organized under joint aegis of PVCHR, Malviya center for peace research and Bunkar Dastkar Adhikar Manch. The topic of Round Table Meeting was “Banarasi Sarees : Crisis and Solution”
In the meeting representatives of different political parties and weaver’s organizations expressed their grave concern over the devastating situation of centuries old weaving industry pitiable conditions of millions of weavers of Varanasi district, which is getting bad to worse day-by-day. Representatives gathered at the meeting unanimously concluded that the ugly face of globalization has started to pervade silently among working class of Indian society in the form of poverty and marginalisation, particularly among those sections of the society who are earning their livelihood by traditional weaving arts and by involving into syncretic culture of craftsmanship.
PVCHR and Bunkar Dastkar Adhikar Manch have been making massive campaign strenuously for last three years to save the centuries old weaving industry and craftsmanship of Varanasi city, which has its international recognition.
As a result of strenuous and continuous campaigning of PVCHR and Bunkar Dastkar Adhikar Manch the cause of weavers has received not only nationwide but also international sympathy and momentum and it has made possible to draw the attention of planning commission and Indian government as well.
Actually, starvation deaths of 42 weavers in Varanasi district were widely reported by PVCHR drew the attention of FIAN INTERNATIONAL, a human Right organization based in Germany and Asian Human Rights Commission and they joined hands with PVCHR to redress the problems of weavers in India. Going one step ahead convener of PVCHR Dr. Lenin, with the help of renowned Srilankan economist Dr. Darin proposed the concept of ‘Varanasi weavers Trust’ to bring about a radical change in the life of weavers of Varanasi city. Taking in to account the whole effort of PVCHR and Bunkar Dastkar Adhikar Manch Central Planning Commission sent Dr.Sayeeda Hamid, a member of planning commission to Varanasi to have a talk with Dr. Lenin and with the representatives of different weavers organizations. Dr. Lenin told that Round Table Meeting in Varanasi had been organized to discuss about the concept of Varanasi Weavers Trust and about other developments, that had already taken place in this direction. In the round table talk Dr. Lenin told that owing to the international pressure, U.P. Government had asked to commissioner of Varanasi to send detailed report in relation to “Varanasi Weavers Trust”. Dr. Lenin also reported about the decision of meeting with the member of planning commission taken on 16 May 2006,in Delhi. According to Dr Lenin Indian Government has decided to start pilot project for the weavers of Varanasi and Andhra Pradesh.
Tanvir, Gurendar Singh, Abdul Matin,Dy. Director-weaver service center,Dy. Director-Handloom and representative of ICICI Lombard insurance scheme attended the Round Table meeting along with tens of representatives of weavers. Dr. K.N. Bhatt lecturer of G B PANT INSTITUTE, Allahabad, chaired the meeting.
In the meeting following demands were made-
1. Development programme should be made keeping the weavers in center.
2. Government officials should be kept away from the implementation of the programme.
3. Weavers should be given direct participation in the programme.
4. A weavers’ Hospital should be established.
5. AAY cards to all handloom weavers of Varanasi.
6. In the office of Handicraft commissioner there should be established a special cell for weavers.
7. A museum should be established to make the show of the craftsmanship.
8. Implementation of Dr. Darin’s idea in respect of Weavers of Varanasi.
9. To provide easily market to the weavers.
10. To fix ‘handloom mark’ on the production of handloom product to save the handloom weavers from power loom sectors.

On 25 May 2006 Handicraft Development Commissioner made a visit to Varanasi and declared that the policy of ‘Handloom Mark’ would be implemented in favour of weavers by July 2006. It would be greatly helpful for weavers, as the quality of weavers’ goods would not be suspected in foreign countries. Further he told that the central Government has given her consent to start Credit Guarantee Scheme in favour of Handloom weavers. Under this scheme weavers can get up to Rs 25000/ without any Guaranty. He also exchanged his views with weavers over the demand of ‘Yarn Depot’.

Hundred of weavers of Varanasi City organized on 26 April 06 an extensive protest demonstration before District magistrate of Varanasi taking breads in their hands with slogan ‘we want bread’, ‘we want AAY cards’. At present no body knows that what is going to take place in nearby future and in what way the movement of millions of poor weavers will advance. But seeing the anger and experiencing the resentment among weavers, gathered at district headquarter, one could easily anticipate the violent turn of the movement if some appropriate and concrete steps are not taken to redress the pitiable conditions of the weaver community who have lost their employment and facing the hunger situation, Dr. Lenin remarked. Further he said that responsible government officials and policy makers should come forward immediately to meet the terms of the organization like PVCHR working at gross root level among the weavers, farmers and marginalized communities.
A representative of DR.Syeda Hameed ,a member of Planning commission of India, also visited the place of Dharana of Varanasi weavers and had a talk with them. On the same day Dr. Syeda visited a weavers community at Baghawanala of Varanasi.There she met with so many weavers families and was upset to find that children especially girls of weaver families were involved in to making Aggarbatti on contract for which they are paid only 5 to 10 Rs. Per day per family of four persons. She also came to know that 60 percent handloom weaving work has been closed and the weavers have lost their employment, which has thrown them in to starving situation. Human Rights activists associated with PVCHR provided her information of malnutrition which were scientifically mapped out in that community which as follows:
Table 1: No. Of children suffering from malnutrition of various degrees (0-1 years) in three operational area
Vill. Total family surveyed Total children surveyed Details of malnutrition cases
Grade 1 Grade II Grade III Grade IV Total
Bagwanala 13 9 22 1 1 1 2 3 3 3 6 1 0 1 6 5 10

Table 2: No. of children suffering from malnutrition of various degrees (1-3 years) in three operational area
Vill. Total family surveyed Total children surveyed Details of malnutrition cases
Grade 1 Grade II Grade III Grade IV Total
Bagwanala 32 40 72 8 6 14 5 0 5 2 2 4 1 1 2 16 9 25

Table 3: No. of children suffering from malnutrition of various degrees (3-5 years) in three operational area
Vill. Total family surveyed Total children surveyed Details of malnutrition cases
Grade 1 Grade II Grade III Grade IV Total
Bagwanala 30 34 64 3 6 9 0 3 3 0 1 1 0 0 0 3 10 13

On 7July 05 Dr. Lenin sent a letter to the prime minister of India forwarding there with a project document entitled the ‘Varanasi weavers Trust’ as proposed by Dr. Darin to bring the capital market home to the people. But Indian government never seems to be thinking seriously over the proposal made by Dr. Darin and Dr. Lenin. On 27Feb.06 a letter was received by Bunker Dastkar Adhikar Manch from the prime minister’s office in respect of the demands made by Bunker Dastkar Adhikar Manch through their joint memorandum dated 6.10.05. In this letter too, prime minister’s office has not proposed any plan in respect of the starving situations of the weavers. In the same letter received from prime minister’s office, it has been stated that government has started a scheme to provide the facility of health insurance for the weaver’s families and to exempt them from the charges electricity bill. But as Dr. Lenin has remarked that it is too vague to understand its implementation at ground level in actual sense. Dr. Lenin addressing the meeting of weavers made demand to take extensive measures to ensure the employment to the weavers and to provide them all other facilities free of cost. He demanded to take immediate step to establish the ‘Varanasi weavers trust’ by taking the weavers in full confidence.

The concept of Varanasi weaver trust was sent to Chief Minister of UP in to 2004 and in response of this UP Government asked with Commissioner, Varanasi to send a detailed report in this respect through special secretary, textile (DO letter no.4CM/63-Wa0U0 2006). Later Mr. V.B.Vahan, joint director (industry), eastern UP told that report would be send to UP Government by 2 June 2006. In 2005 a team of BBC visited Varanasi and made a documentary on the situation of weavers of Varanasi with the help of PVCHR. Subsequently PVCHR and AHRC published a book on the weavers named as ‘Handloom has become live grave for weavers’.DR. Lenin went to Hong kong at the occasion of WTO meeting and raised the matter of starving weavers of Varanasi by participating a conference organized by Christian Conference of Asia and AHRC.In that sequence Craft council of India and Craft revival Trust organized a round table talk on situation of Varanasi weavers in New Delhi on 14 March 06. In this round table talk Director of UNESCO; India and Director of NIFT and other luminaries participated. As a result of this continuous proliferated campaigning, first time Planning Commission of India called PVCHR and weavers of Varanasi for Brainstorming session on Handloom weavers-Assistance and up gradation. PVCR is also fighting for the cause of weavers of Kushinagar, Tanda(Ambedkar Nagar) and Mubarakpur.
There are some more latest cases of starvation and malnutrition of weavers are being given below:
Painfully Malnutritioned:
It is brought to your kind notice that on 28Dec.05, it came into the knowledge of Vijay Bharti, a community fellow of PVCHR that an 8 years old minor girl Shabanam D/o Nizamuddin R/o. Vill. Shivrampur under Harhua Block in Varanasi district had been suffering from malnutrition. Instantly Vijay Bharti informed in written to village secretary about this case of malnutrition and demanded from him to provide Rs. 1000/- to the victim family in pursuance of UP Government order dated 22-12-04. It should be noted that taking into view the increasing incidents of malnutrition and hunger deaths, on the direction of Supreme Court, the then chief Secretary of UP Sri V.K. Mittal issued a Government order to set up an contingency fund of Rs. 1000/- at village level to avoid apprehended cases of malnutrition and hunger deaths. But it is regrettable that the instruction is not being followed by district administration. Even most of the officials pretend to be uninformed of the aforesaid Government order dated 22-12-04.
It is painful just to look at the health condition of innocent minor girl Shabanam. Her mother Haseena is suffering from cancer and it is a matter of just some days or months to pass her away. Her father is a Handicapped by birth but not wholly. He is able to do many kinds of physical work. Initially he was a carpet weaver but now he has lost his weaving job. At present he works as a laborer. But his earning is awfully insufficient in respect of the medical expenses of her ailing wife and to feed their children. Acting swiftly upon it, Dr. Lenin took painfully malnutrition girl to hospital on 2 jan,06 and she has been diagnosed with ‘Protein energy malnutrition (PEM) and rickets by the doctor. It means that this minor girl, whose physical appearance hardly matches her age, will have minimal chances of survival if she is not given a proper diet and medical care. While the government is laying stress on nutrition and health monitoring, especially among vulnerable segments of society, the real picture is very different, particularly in rural areas of eastern Uttar Pradesh. “Hum kahaan se achcha khurak de sakte hain apne bachchon ko,” (How can I manage good food for our children), questioned Nizamuddin, who lost his carpet weaving job about five years back due to his wife, Haseena’s ill-health and various other reasons. A resident of Shivrampur village, about 10 km from the district headquarters in Harahua development Block, Nizamuddin feeds his family by doing odd jobs. He also had to mortgage his little piece of land for the treatment of his ailing wife. Today, the family was living in utter poverty.
“The present condition of the girl is a clear cut case of malnutrition,” said Dr. Arvind Singh, the state secretary of Indian Medical Association (IMA), adding that such cases of malnutrition in this age was also a shame to society. The gram pradhan, Sheela Devi and the Gram Panchayat committee have also declared the girl to be suffering from malnutrition, and sanctioned a sum of Rs. 1000 under the contingency fund for her health. The panchayatraj department of the state government has authorized the gram panchayats to provide financial assistance to the families facing starvation or malnutrition.
Even though the family has the below poverty line white card, they are not even in a position to purchase food grains regularly with this card.
Meanwhile, People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) has come forward to adopt the child for treatment and proper care. “It is not the only case of malnutrition in this region.” Said Dr. Lenin of PVCHR adding that in the past too, over 90 cases of hunger deaths had been reported to Dr. N.C. Saxena, commissioner of the Supreme Court, who in his letter (dated 05-06-05) to the UP chief secretary, had sought adequate state government action in this regard. The food schemes implemented in Varanasi, Sonebhadra, Juanpur, Kushinagar and Mirzapur district presented a grim picture, he said adding that even in the districts, from where the deaths were reported, only 31 percent of the children in the 0-6 age group had been covered under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS).
There is no ICDS center in Dalit Tola (Khas Basti) and Minority tola of village Shivrampur. Recently we have medically mapped out some serious malnutrition among children in this tolas.In this tolas weaving has totally been closed and there is no other source of livelihood for them and even Government has not yet taken any step. Even Red-AAY cards have not been made available for the poor Dalit and Minority starving people of village. List of malnutrition as follows:
Table 4: No. of children suffereing from malnutrition of various degrees (0-1 years) in three operational area
Vill. Total family surveyed Total children surveyed Details of malnutrition cases
Grade 1 Grade II Grade III Grade IV Total

Shivrampur 34 26 60 8 5 13 5 8 13 8 4 12 2 2 4 23 19 42

Table 5: No. of children suffering from malnutrition of various degrees (1-3 years) in three operational area
Vill. Total family surveyed Total children surveyed Details of malnutrition cases
Grade 1 Grade II Grade III Grade IV Total

Shivrampur 63 51 114 26 9 35 15 22 37 3 3 6 3 5 8 47 39 86

Table 6: No. of children suffering from malnutrition of various degrees (3-5 years) in three operational area
Vill. Total family surveyed Total children surveyed Details of malnutrition cases
Grade 1 Grade II Grade III Grade IV Total

Shivrampur 48 40 88 13 9 22 17 12 29 0 3 3 0 1 1 30 25 55

Weavers has no option but to commit sucuide:
Jiut Prajapati son of Mangru resident of village Benipur (Changwar) under Block Arajiline was a weaver. Name of his wife is Ghunni Devi. Jiut and Ghunni have four children namely Santosh (16 years), Ramesh (14 years), Suresh (10 years) and Indrika (6 years). These children do not go to school. As grinding under acute poverty, the weaver Jiut could not get their children enrolled in the school. When he lost his work of weaving he went to Surat (Gujrat) in the hope of earning livelihood for their family members by doing weaving work. But there in Surat he could not earn much to feed his family properly. As having disappointed he returned home. But again he could not find work at home. He took a loan of Rs. 10,000/- (Ten thousand) from a moneylender at the rate of 10% per month as interest and made attempt to feed their family and children. He had yellow ration card bearing the member 4143331. He was landless. He had a thatched house. Deceased weaver’s wife Ghunni Devi told that the loan taken from moneylender has reached up to 1,25,000/- (one lakh twenty five thousand). She also told that for last many days no food was cooked in his home because there was nothing in his home to cook. His children too were facing hunger. She told that his husband Jiut could not bear the sufferings and miseries of the children and committed suicide on 21 March 2006.
The elder son of Jiut Santosh has also taken a loan of Rs. 12000/ from a moneylender and he pays Rs. 900/- each month as interest to the moneylender. He is also a weaver. Father of Jiut Magru aged about 70yrs old neither gets benefit of old age pension nor he receive any kind of benefit under Government schemes. Victim was also not paid Rs.1000/- of contingency fund. Activists from PVCHR Sri Lalbahadur and Siddique Hassan met with village head Phuldei and asked her that whether emergency help committee was formed in the village. At this she replied that the committee had been formed. When it was asked that then why she could not given Rs.1000/- as an emergency help. Member of Block Development Committee Birendra told that younger brother of deceased named Rajbali had also taken a loan of Rs.3000/- from a moneylender. He has two girls. He pays Rs.300/- per month as interest. Birendra Prajapati told that we do not have earth to make earthen pots. The land allotted to them is in the possession of others.
On behalf of administration food inspector of Arajiline Sri Anjani Kumar Singh, Kanungo Manik Chandra Srivastav and Lakhpal Dayashankar Singh and village head Phuldei went to the house of deceased Jiut Prajapati. Anjani Kumar Singh assured to give 50 Kg Rice and lakhpal Dayashankar Singh gave Rs.100/- from his pocket but no body came forward to provide the help of permanent nature like red card or to give Rs. 10,000/- under the scheme of sudden death of family head.
In chegwar tola of the village Benipur, people belonging to Kumhar community (people who make earthen pots) reside. Most of them presently do the work of weaving of Banarasi Sarees. All of them are landless. Total population of this community is 4,000/-. There is no ICDS Centre in this tola. There are only 5 red cards among these people. There should have been 125 red cards among this community. Radheyshyam Patel, a member of village committee told that only 13 red ration cards had been issued in this village in the tenure of farmer village head. But these red ration cards too were not given to genuine persons.
In this tola the situation of all persons are the same. Nathu, a neighbor of Jiut has taken a loan of Rs. 20,000/- from moneylender. But at present he has to pay Rs. 1lakh in which 80,000/- is interest. Villagers told that he had left the house and the money sender has taken his house under his possession. Another weaver named Rajendra Prajapati son of late Ghalayi Prajapati is going through acute poverty. He has three children. Mamata (9yrs), Raj kumar (7yrs) have been suffering from Kala fever. Rajendra told that his children do not go to school. If they will go to school, they would die of hunger. He told that his children did eat bread with salt. Often they do not get food. His waist has become curved like an as a result of malnutrition for a long time. He is on the verge of death caused by malnutrition. He is only 35yrs old.
HA-12-2005:, HU-08-2005:
Case of Hunger death of Dalit weaver Kanhaiya
After urgent appeal of AHRC and FIAN International, wife of Kanhaiya, Ms. Hosila Devi received a red AAY card and ten thousand rupees under the scheme of National family benefit.
She came to PVCHR office on 25 May, 06 and filed an affidavit before DM of Varanasi stating that she along with her three minor children are suffering with hunger situation. But village head Mr. Sunder Yadav appointed a OBCs man as cook for mead day meal in primary school. He did by removing dalit woman from the post of Cook. PVCHR demanded that District administration appoint to Hosila Devi as cook according the direction of Supreme Court and to provide her house under Indira Awas yojana..