Sunday, November 9, 2008

Indian Carpet Trade Collapsing Market Off 90%

Thousands without jobs in carpet export hub
Saubhadra Chatterji / Bhadohi November 10, 2008, 0:33 IST

Three carpets, wet with chemical-laced water, could be seen on the large, barren field in Sarroi village of Bhadohi in Uttar Pradesh, soaking the afternoon sunlight. The far end of the field was dotted with two abandoned, naked brick structures.

“The first one was migrant workers’ house. The other had my carpet-making looms. I used to wash (the process of drying chemical-laced carpets) a hundred carpets on a single day. Now, as you can see, there are just three of them,” Asir Ahmed said. “Like a pariah dog in search of food, every morning I run everywhere in search of orders.”

Jagdish, another contractor, had 12 to 13 workers in each of his gola or groups. “I don’t have much work these days. So I have four workers in each gola. The retrenched workers have gone away to Surat and Mumbai in search of jobs or are sitting idle at home.”

Beyond the bankruptcy of international financial giants, beyond the crash of the Sensex, the ripples of the planet’s greatest economic slowdown are fast reaching newer milestones in India. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh might have succeeded in saving a few thousand jobs in corporate India when he met industry captains last week, Jet Airways may well have retained its 1,900 employees, but here in the hinterland of Uttar Pradesh — famed as the carpet hub of India — the poor are being retrenched in thousands.

Carpet exports from Bhadohi
2005-06 Rs 3,082 crore
2006-07 Rs 3,674 crore
2007-08 Rs 3,524 crore

Among India’s major carpet producing centres spread over around six states, Bhadohi is the biggest name — it accounts for almost 65 per cent of India’s total carpet export, according to the Carpet Export Promotion Council.

The situation today is bleak. “For the past three months, I have not received a single new order which means a loss of almost Rs 3 crore,” said Vinay Kapoor, the owner of Kapoor’s Carpets. “Job uncertainty and the meltdown have wiped out consumer appetite this Christmas, which, otherwise, is the peak season for carpet sales,” added Ravi Patodia, president of the All India Carpet Manufacturers’ Association.

According to an insider, many carpet-makers have closed their business as export orders, which account for more than 95 per cent of the business in Bhadohi, “have reduced to 10 per cent compared to last year’s corresponding period”. Patodia confirmed that export orders worth at least Rs 300 crore have been cancelled in the past few weeks.

Ismail, who works in a carpet factory, fails to understand all this. He knew that he had Rs 50 in his pocket after a day’s hard work and a family of seven to feed. He didn’t know if he will get some work tomorrow or not, as his tired body faded away in the dusty bylanes of Bhadohi.

Dust was also gathering in Kapoor’s godown — on a ‘made in Bhadohi’ Persian carpet crafted by four artisans over eight months as it waited for someone to buy it for Rs 1 lakh.

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