Thirty-year-old weaver Mohammad Faizan, who shot to fame when he shared the stage with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi during the 2012 Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, today stands forgotten by the Congress.
Though Faizan’s missed calls are still returned by Rahul or his office, his personal situation remains dire: Faizan works 12 hours a day on his powerloom weaving sarees on contract, earning only Rs 100, less than the daily wage promised under the MNREGA scheme. His wife shares the burden, his 5-year-old son is yet to attend school.
While the weaver from Nevada village in Mubarakpur still has clippings of old newspapers featuring his pictures with Rahul, he is saddened by the situation of the Congress in the state, particularly in Azamgarh, in the current elections.
During his rally in January 2012, Rahul had invited Faizan on the stage and introduced him as the face of the common man, who helped him understand the problems of weavers. Following this, he became a star campaigner for the Congress in Azamgarh — a seat the party lost, much to his regret.
“In our locality, where there is a dominance of Muslims — mainly weavers — the fight is between SP and BSP. The Congress is not strong, perhaps that’s why no one has approached me this time,” Faizan said.
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Faizan has done a fair share for the cause of the weavers. It started in 2011, when he received a visitor from Delhi. “He wanted me to be part of some welfare programmes for weavers, but I turned him away as lots of NGOs come here and cheat people. After three days, on July 19 2011, Rahul came to meet me and discussed ways to improve the situation of weavers,” Faizan said. His suggestion of direct fund transfer to weavers was taken up and an almost Rs 6,000 crore package for weavers was sanctioned by the Central government. Ironically, Faizan could not benefit from it. “Many weavers got the relief, but there are still gaps in the scheme. Relief is provided through self help groups and weavers are often not aware if they are part of any such group,” he said.
Faizan claims his suggestion of issuing credit cards to weavers was also implemented and many weavers in Mubarakpur, famous for making Banarasi sarees, benefited from it. “Some took the loan to send their children to the Gulf while others took it to install powerlooms. I did not take any loan,” he said.
Subsequently, Faizan also got a chance to meet the then finance minister Pranab Mukherjee with his suggestions.
Though the limelight is gone, Faizan says he is still in touch with Rahul, who gave him his personal number. “My missed calls are returned by Rahul or Kanishka (Singh, Rahul’s aide). But I do not call too often. People trouble me for getting their sons admitted in good colleges and getting government jobs. I never approach Rahul for any favour,” he said. “I am not interested in any posts, I am loyal to Rahul and I will always remain so.”