“Essential items have become costlier. Now, getting food is becoming difficult because there is no work or earning,” said Mohammed Shiraj Ansari from Saidanpur cluster of Barabanki in Uttar Pradesh who is one of the many weavers who earn a living through daily wages. Barabanki has around 50,000 weavers and about 20,000 looms. The weavers here earn ₹ 100-120 daily which is even less than the national daily wage average. Moreover, due to the lockdown, the new orders are put on hold and the weavers haven’t received past payments as the delivery of the existing orders could not be made. This goes for clusters across India.
The weavers of Saidanpur are particularly involved in making cotton sarees or gamchcha. Ansari spends eight hours a day working on the loom, producing about eight pieces of gamchcha, which are then sold for ₹ 50-60 per four pieces. Most of the gamchcha producers are weaving for middlemen or selling their products directly in the local market. Either way, the profit margin is thin.
The covid-19 pandemic has adversely affected the weaver community since there is no relief package announced by the government for them. Also, the next generation of these families are mostly migrant workers who have not been able return leaving the elders without any help in this crisis.
Saidanpur under the project Baank-e-Loom is one of the several clusters that DEF has been working in under the Digital Cluster Development Program (DCDP). DEF has developed a Covid-19 Digital emergency Relief model to provide immediate help to the vulnerable communities like them across 600+ locations in India. This includes directing men and women towards alternate livelihood opportunities like producing essential covid-19 commodities such as masks and sanitisers.
Digikargha, an offshoot of the DCDP programme, has placed an order to Ansari to produce 20 indigo sarees worth five to six thousand and the payment has been made in advance to help his family sustain.
Furthermore, over 600 masks have been distributed and nearly 1500 individuals have been reached by spreading awareness around covid-19 and encouraging preventive health measures, producing masks and access to government entitlements.
Similarly, production of masks has been initiated in Barapali cluster in Odisha which not only caters to the immediate demand in local health centers and frontline workers but also generates a livelihood opportunity without having to step out. Women in Chanderi, Madhya Pradesh, have set themselves up on the task of making masks out of vegetable bags, because of the dire shortage of raw materials in the market to create them.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected lives of everyone at large. The social, institutional and governance settings have been affected across globe generating unparalleled health crisis and threatening health systems and services. Everyone is confined to their respective homes with only one idea in mind i.e. to stay safe and quarantined.