The future of weavers’ community in Varanasi continues to remain in the dark in the absence of education, which is a must to bring about a positive change in their lives.
Members of the community have their suggestions and questions ready for candidates when they visit their constituencies to seek support. Weavers play a key role in three assembly constituencies in Varanasi district.
Karimuddin, 20, left his education midway about nine years ago and started weaving sarees on a handloom, using the skills he learnt from his father Sharifuddin.
For the last nine years, he has been waking up to weaving every morning and working tirelessly on handloom for about 18 hours a day in weaver-dominated Jalalipura area of Varanasi North Assembly constituency.
The story of Dharmendra Prajapati, 32, is no different. He attended school up to Class 8 and then took up weaving.
Karimuddin and Prajapati own handlooms and both are unhappy with their meagre earnings. They now feel if they had completed their education, they might have been earning well by taking up some other job.
They blame their poor financial condition and the government for lack of education among weavers.
According to them, freebies and welfare schemes like artisan cards do not provide a permanent solution to their problems.
“Political parties make tall claims about taking concrete steps to change the lives of weavers but forget their promises once the elections are over. We have realised that welfare schemes are not permanent solution to our problems. Ironically, no political party talks of education among weavers,” Prajapati said.
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Prajapati and Karimuddin have decided to ask the politicians to assure to them that they would formulate a policy for the education of the children of weavers. They want separate schools dedicated to the children of weavers where they can get special facilities.
Another weaver, Bilal Ansari, said: “Weavers don’t get benefit of various government schemes like MUDRA loan and weavers insurance due to lack of awareness and education. Educated weavers take advantage of these schemes easily.”
Haji Okas Ansari ‘Wakas’, who works for the cause of the weavers, raised the issue of lack of education in weavers’ community. “Every weaver-dominated area in the state should have at least a college for the children of weavers,” Ansari said.
He said a drive should be launched to make the members of the community aware about the importance of education. Ansari’s brothers are, however, well off. One of them is a doctor while the other is in judicial services.
Another weaver, Anil Prajapati, said youngsters were drifting away from this occupation. “A policy is required to fix respectable daily wage for weavers and their skill needs to be honoured. As of now, the benefit of schemes reaches only a few. Weavers belong to economically weaker sections who need to be identified and provided benefits on priority basis,” he said.
“Demonetisation has affected the earnings of weavers heavily and there are no takers for the sarees they weave. This is going to be a crucial issue during polls,” Prajapati said.
“MPs, MLAs and regimes change but the plight of weavers remains the same. Past experiences have not been good for the community,” he said.