Tanda, Ambedkar Nagar- It is not quite uncommon for your ears to be hit by the clickety-clack of the power looms when you enter the bylanes of Tanda. Almost every other household in the town operates these mechanized looms for a living. The area has, over a period of time, seen rapid progress and has emerged as a hub for power looms, which replaced the handlooms over time. Tanda terracotta is a cloth that is world-famous, and the Ambedkar Nagar district has seen an increase in the number of power looms in the city, improving the financial condition of the town.
Tanda, the town in Ambedkar Nagar district, lies about 200 kilometers from Lucknow, the State Capital of Uttar Pradesh. A Power Plant run by the National Thermal Power Corporation Limited is attached to the identity of the place, but it is the power looms on which the economy of the place is dependent. These looms provide self-employment to the people in the region and churn out clothes worn by people all over the country. In 2018, the government initiated the One District One Product scheme to promote at least one product from one district. Tanda Terracotta, which involves the production of Gamcha, lungi, etc., was selected to represent Ambedkar Nagar.
Tanvir Alam Ansari, a youth belonging to a Bunkar family, says, “Earlier, the power looms were very few, and mostly we had handlooms in Tanda. But in 2006, the Samajwadi Party government provided a subsidy to the bunkars (handloom owners) and provided electricity at Rs 65 per machine per month. This subsidy proved to be a boon for the people of Tanda, as people purchased machines, and this led to the prosperity of the region.
But the benefits have not percolated to all sections evenly. A class division has emerged as an offshoot of the growth in the number of looms. The big traders provide raw materials to the small loom owners, who, in return, provide the finished fabric to them at a fixed rate. Mohd Rashid is a small loom operator who purchases raw material from the big traders and prepares finished fabric. He gets a labour rate of Rs 3 per meter. He says, "The rate of everything has increased. Fifteen years ago, mustard oil costed Rs 60, and even then, we used to get Rs 3 per meter. Now, the cost of the same edible oil is Rs 160, and still, we get Rs 3 per meter."
Tanveer Iman says that in 2020, the government ended the flat rate and resumed the meter system. After the power loom workers reached out to the government, the government promised to introduce a flat rate, but the flat rate was very exorbitant at Rs 400 for machines below 60 inches and Rs 800 for machines above 60 inches, compared to Rs 140 for the same machines earlier, with the added condition that only farmers with a 5KW connection would get the subsidy, which was very unjust. The finishing machines, which prepare the finished product, run at more than 25 kilowatts. This results in higher costs, as the government does not provide a subsidy on threads, which it should.
Ajimul Ansari, who prepares the finished product and is also aggrieved with the "faulty" policy of the government, has a 14 KW machine and is therefore not eligible for the subsidy, which is limited to people with 5 KW machines. He says, "My condition is very miserable. Earlier, we used to pay Rs 2800, and now it is Rs 1600. I think the government should pay heed and not increase the rates of the power connection." Narimuddin, who also runs a power loom in his home, demands that there should be no segregation between the home meter and the commercial meter.
The women in Tanda contribute to the economy of the loom industry, most of which is situated inside their home premises. Most of them operate and work on the pirn winding machine and are also involved in packing. Shahnawaz Bazmi says, "The women are involved in the loom industry directly and indirectly from pre-production to post-production stage, but they don’t get their dues, as there are no schemes for the female loom workers. I think at a time when the women reservation bill is being passed, the government should also do something for the female bunkars.
While, on one hand, the handlooms have transformed into power looms thanks to the steady power supply because of the NTPC plant located in the town, the loom industry has not adapted itself to the online mode of reaching out to the world. Tanveerul Iman, a youth belonging to a bunkar family who is quite active on social media, says, "The people here don’t want to get into the faff of GST registration, as they think this could increase government intervention in their business. Another reason is that the end consumer of our product is a person belonging to the lowest strata of society." With people across all industries making a rich seam of the e-commerce revolution, it is high time that Tanda harnesses the internet to take 'Tanda Terracotta' to the world.
There are a few degree colleges in the city, but apart from that, there are no educational institutes, and self-employment remains the biggest source of livelihood. Shahanawaz Bazmi, who runs an institute for the welfare called Bazmi Foundation of the Bunkars, says, "The students here somehow manage to get an education till class 10th, but beyond that, they find it difficult to pursue if they want to pursue Engineering, Medicine, etc. The government may have initiated schemes, but the people here are not able to avail them. Also, there are no good coaching institutes here. The women here are graduates but still unemployed."
According to government data, power looms produce nearly 60% of the cloth manufactured in the country. Tanda Terricotta, which caters to the lowest section of society, should be helped in every way. Hopefully, the government will address the grievances of the people associated with the industry and take steps to provide impetus to this source of self-employment.