Realising that after losing its livelihood due to the Covid-19 induced lockdown, a cluster of nomadic Rajbhoi community is getting into begging, an Ahmedabad-based voluntary organization has launched an initiative to revive the community’s livelihood prospects and to hone their artistic and marketing skills in rope making.
The organisation, Budhan Theatre, has associated with two other voluntary organisations — Bhasha Research and Publication Centre (BRPC) and Paul Hamlyn Foundation — for the work. BRPC is a Vadodara-based centre foun-ded by cultural activist Ganesh Devy. Paul Hamlyn Foundation is an UK-based group that works for the welfare of vulnerable communities, among other things.
Rajbhoi is a nomadic community that earns its livelihood by making and selling ropes from the leftover of textile industry. A cluster of the community, consisting 35 houses, lives in Vatva area of Ahmedabad. As per a rough estimate, the total population of Rajbhoi community in Gujarat is around 1 – 1.5 lakh.
Dakxin Chhara from Budhan Theatre said that the Rajbhois are from an extremely poor background. The male members of the community earn a living by removing earwax and the females are into rope-making. The male members also join the females in rope-making when they have no work. The community people make ropes using the leftover of textile industry as raw material.
“We have been working with them since 2004 and they have got housing under the government’s housing scheme for economically weaker sections in Vatva following a legal battle up to Supreme Court. During lockdown, these people were rendered completely helpless with loss of livelihood. We supported them by providing them ration and other necessary stuff then,” said Chhara.
According to Chhara, after the unlockdown, the Rajbhois could not resume work due to want of funds as most of their savings were exhausted by then.
“We realised, some members of the cluster started getting into begging. To help them revive their traditional occupation, we started this initiative by setting up a corpus of Rs 50,000,” said Chhara.
Sharif Malek from BRPC, who is working directly with the Rajbhois, said, “After setting up the corpus, we purchased two tonnes of raw material from the textile industry in Surat and Kim last week that was equally distributed among the Rajbhoi families. These families will pay back the cost incurred for raw material and transport in installments after they start making money. A committee has also been formed in this regard.”
Malek said, “The Rajbhois generally sell their ropes in villages. Their ropes are used for tethering animals, drawing water from water wells and in tying goods in trucks.”
“In the second phase, we are planning to give them market exposure, while also helping them to hone and upgrade their skills to get into more rope products like rope wall, rope bridge, etc. We are trying to tie-up them with wholesale traders of ropes and cot makers in Ahmedabad,” Malek added.
A 40-year-old man from the Vatva cluster of Rajbhoi community said, “Our work stopped completely following 3-4 months of lockdown. During lockdown, people like Dakxinbhai helped us with ration and food. Since we lost all our savings during lockdown, we did not have money to restart our occupation… and many of us started begging in nearby areas. What else could we do?”
A 52-year-old woman from the community said, “During lockdown, we faced very tough days. Things went so bad that we had to beg to survive. Now we have started working.”
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines