Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 4, Dated Jan 31, 2009
Famous for its handmade carpet industry and the maximum
number of Mercedes cars, Bhadohi is now a ghost town
54, has pulled his three children out of school: he’s lost his job
as a binder in a carpet factory in Bhadohi, Uttar Pradesh. He’s
hardly unique — some 10 lakh workers are out of work.
Once dubbed the dollar belt,
godowns of 2,000-odd units in
Bhadohi-Mirzapur are full of carpets
that should have been shipped abroad.
“Over 50 percent of our export orders
have been cancelled or put on hold. No
new orders are coming our way,” says
Ravi Patodia, president, All India Carpet
Manufacturers’ Association. In the
last six months, export orders worth
over Rs 1,000 crore have unravelled.
Bhadohi alone exports about 75 per
cent of the Rs 4,400 total carpet exports
from India. In 2007, Q4 exports
were worth Rs 2,000 crore; the figure
during the same period in 2008 has
come down to a meagre Rs 800 crore.
Bhadohi’s handmade carpet weaving,
a tradition that dates back to
Akbar’s time, is world-famous. But the
100 percent export-oriented industry,
which employs 22 lakh rural artisans, is
now in turmoil. Looms are silent and
processing halls deserted. There are no
trucks queuing up at export houses and
buyers are missing in the shops selling
A year ago, carpets could be seen in
fields, on roof-tops of every house-hold
in this tiny district which may lack
basic infrastructure, proper roads and
amenities but boasts of having maximum
number of Mercedes in the state .
Today, it’s a ghost town. “I have been
working in the industry for the past 34
years. Where will I go now?” asks
Sayeed Khan, 57.
Ehsan, a contractor for polishing
carpets, has brought down his workforce
from 60 to four; Santosh Kumar
now pulls a rickshaw. Even business
owners are suffering. “We have taken
huge loans on orders from the US. I
don’t know how to repay them,” says
Ashok Kumar. “The government
showed immense concern for 1,900 Jet
Airways and 50,000 Satyam employees,
but is not worried about 10 lakh artisans,”
says another exporter.
Worse, the Mayawati Government
imposed four percent VAT on raw material
for carpet manufacture. It’s refundable,
but blocks cash flow, already stuck
because of delayed payments. Costs of
importing raw material have increased
with dollar appreciation.
The Carpet Export Promotion
Council wants income tax relief, increased
duty drawbacks, duty exemption
and no VAT: only such magic will
make the carpet industry fly again. A
tall order, indeed.