With the textile units in Surat shut during the lockdown, a community residing almost 300 kms away has faced the repercussions in terms of economic distress. The Rajbhoi community, which falls under the De-Notified Tribes (DNTs) of the country and has struggled to manage even basic identity cards, has indulged in making ropes for generations. With the lack of a proper, structured factory set-up, they had set up their own rope mills at their respective houses and backyards.
Meera Rajbhoi (60) was 10 years old when she moved to Ahmedabad with her parents after their shanty was razed in Surat. In hopes of a better livelihood, the family has been on the move since. They mostly lived near railway stations, before finally settling down in Vatva area of Ahmedabad in 2017. This was following a Supreme Court order, owing to which housing was provided to over 200 families from the community. The families had continued with their rope manufacturing business.
The women from the community traveled to Surat, the textile hub of the state, to buy discarded textile material for Rs 25 per kg, as raw material for the ropes. Over a period of seven days, around four women would get together to make 25-30 ropes for sale. They would then travel to villages in Anand, Nadiad and other districts for sale. the ropes fetching them around Rs 1,000 in a single trip. But with the lockdown in place, the community members have been unable to travel to Surat to arrange for the raw materials or even to go to other districts, mostly rural areas, where they sold their produce.
“We could make around three to four trips a month and make a profit of around Rs 800- Rs 900 a week, depending on the travel expenses in each trip. That would be our entire income for the family. But with transportation now restricted and the textile units in Surat shut, neither have we been able to procure raw material, nor could we sell the ropes. Our income has been nil,” Meera said.
Meera has been able to manage ration twice during the lockdown from fair price shops, but says that it has been difficult for them to manage expenses with no income in the last two months. “We have skipped meals… There is no other way we can sustain ourselves. It is not easy to save money since we earn barely Rs 5,000 a month. We also have loans to repay and do not know how we will manage…,” Meera said.
A few families still do not have ration cards or Aadhar cards and are unable to manage dry ration, the women said, hoping that making ropes will help them start over.
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