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Note ban pushed Bareilly's 'maanjha' makers to take loans they can't repay

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: April 22, 2019  | 17:03 IST

By Kishor Dwivedi Bareilly (UP), Apr 22 (PTI) Life is pretty much routine for 'maanjha' makers Tasleem Khan and Bablu in Bareilly, except the pressure of not being able to repay the loans they took post demonetisation. They reach for work at 6 in the morning and turn plain, cotton thread into the finest maanjha (special thread for flying kites) till 4 in the evening. They return home with Rs 250, often with bruises and bleeding hands. "I rub this 'masala', a mixture of fine stones and glass, on the cotton thread to turn it into maanjha. I have to do it with bare hands, and hence the bleeding," says Tasleem, 39. "But that is okay for us. We are in the habit of doing this. Maanjha has to be made like this only, with bare hands," he adds. If you land in Bareilly and ask any rickshaw-puller to take you to the place with good maanjha for kites, they will surely take you to Swale Nagar along Rampur road on the city's outskirts. The sight of several people working in groups welcomes you to Swale Nagar. Bareilly has for long been known for its fine-quality, hand-made maanjha with its demand among kite enthusiasts across India, especially Gujarat and Rajasthan. However, the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes in November 2016 and implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in July 2018 spelled doom for several maanjha makers in the city. Bablu says maanjha workers work for seven months a year and rest of the time is marked by rain and cold weather, both not conducive for their work. "An average labourer earns around Rs 7,500 per month. But the work is available only for seven months and we are forced to manage throughout the year with mere Rs 4,500. This money is used to meet our expenses and raise a family," he says. "After the note ban, all work discontinued and several of us had to take loans from private lenders. I had taken loans in parts, now totalling around Rs one lakh," the father of three told PTI. Asked how much has he repaid, Bablu says, "Nothing. With the money I am making, it is difficult to make ends meet. I cannot think of repaying the loan and that is my biggest worry. Thank God, the lender is not charging any interest on the loan, else I do not know, what would have happened to me." Tasleem also said he took a loan of Rs 50,000 and was unable to repay it.  "It just does not seem possible, but I want to pay back the loan at the earliest. It is a burden on me," Tasleem, who lives with his wife and two children here, says. However, the duo denied to reveal from whom they took the loans.  Zayed Khan, 42, says prior to the 'GST era', maanjha did not attract any tax and only the cotton thread had five per cent tax on it.  "The GST harmed us labourers the most. A company makes 'kachcha' thread, so there is tax. That is fair. But the companies do not make maanjha, the labourers make it. It was illogical to impose GST on it," he argues. Zayed, who says he is unable to own even a mobile phone, claimed that a lot of skilled maanjha workers had to opt for other work like selling fruits or pulling rickshaw after the note ban.  Kite and related products seller Talat Syed told PTI that the GST has reduced profit margins for retailers and impacted wages of labourers. He says maanjha is made on cotton thread which is made by companies in Punjab. A single reel has 900 metres of cotton thread which costs Rs 10 to Rs 12 per reel. When worked on it, a single reel of maanjha costs Rs 30 to Rs 42 and can go up to even Rs 100 per reel, he adds. "The range depends solely on the quality of maanjha, which in turn depends on the skill of the labourers," Syed says. He says a labourer can get Rs 150 or Rs 300-350 per day, depending on their skill.  "But it is becoming increasingly difficult to find skilled labour for this work. The wages are low so the new generation does not want to be associated with this work. The reduced interest of youths due to their indulgence in mobile phones is also a reason for dearth of kite enthusiasts, which is hurting the business," he says. Syed, who once worked as a maanjha maker, but now owns the Talat Kyte Centre in the city suggests the government should put a complete ban on synthetic maanjha, also known as Chinese maanjha, and give tax relief on the traditional product to help the stakeholders.  Bareilly goes to voting on April 23 during the third leg of the seven-phase Lok Sabha elections. BJP's Santosh Gangwar, Minister of State with independent charge in the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment, is seeking re-election from the constituency. PTI KIS SRY

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