‘Celebrate Chhath Or Manage Shop?’

“Diwali and Chhath?” “How could I go?”

“Who will manage this stall? I paid Rs. 30,000 for this 10×10 sq. ft. area.” “My children are angry as I am not celebrating Diwali-Chhath with them…”

The village women who were earlier jobless are now earning Rs. 400 a day at Suresh Kumar’s workshop.

“Shawl. Sweater. Bed sheet. Trouser. Curtain. Coat, and whatnots. We weave everything!”

“I am a Tharu [an Adivasi community in Tarai]. We are not traditional weavers, but my father got into this. It was profitable then…”

“I could not matriculate to secondary classes at school. Financial condition was worsening. I had no choice.” “Bhaiya [elder brother Harendra Prasad] founded the self-help group or SHG- ‘Ghurauli Prathmik Un Bunkar Sahyog Samiti‘. You can ask any textile trader in the areal radius of hundred kilometers about our weaving centre. We export to almost every Khadi shop in this region.”  “We never thought that our society would generate employment opportunities. Now, most of the weavers at our weaving unit are women!”

“Women empowerment?” “You may call it.”

“But could that alone help? No.” “We put up this makeshift shop in town fairs.” “40 days in Bettiah.” “Then, we will go for Nahan or Snan festival. This is cyclic.” “We will be able to pay workers only if we have enough capital…”

“I have to move outside so that my family can celebrate Diwali and Chhath. We all do it for our loved ones.” “Everyone has to sacrifice [something] to achieve something. I am one of these thousand people in the fair who are away from their homes. For what reason? For their families.”

Raju Prasad, Suresh’s relative and society member, has joined this shop which is widely known across Bettiah Town. On W.-S. corner of annual Bettiah fair, Suresh says, shop is securing this specific slot in fair auction for past three decades.

“I have 14 katha of land now; this is just an output of this to-and-fro motion. I do not want my children to join this field. Who would like to see their kids struggling in manual labour sector? One son. One daughter. They go to school.” “A weaver’s job is odd. It becomes more difficult when one also has to sell the products. “Ghumakkadi or Khanabadosh (Vagabond)!”

“Yes, the ministry [Ministry of Textiles, GoI] has issued the identity card for weavers, however, that is the meaningless recognition. You know why…”

“We have 80 hand looms at out centre. There is no power loom. With this paltry income, we cannot afford to buy a power loom. The cost of one power loom is approximately Rs. 2.5 Lacs.” “Had there been a power loom, we would have been able to make more money…”

“We are yet to receive any help from the government or any organisation.”

“The tag of Adivasi, too, has not helped us. Was it just a political gimmick to marginalise us?” 

-Suresh Prasad, 41, of Chhatraul village of Bagaha-2 locality of West Champaran District of Bihar.

Please, feel free to write to us at editor.thebuoy@protonmail.com if you want to help Suresh in any possible way. Do mention IUP3 in subject-line.

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