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Working at meagre wages, Saharanpur wood artisans struggling to preserve craft

Challenged by Chinese mechanised products and increased cost of handicraft, the artisans of Saharanpur are optimistically looking towards the government for support and welfare.

Working at meagre wages, Saharanpur wood artisans struggling to preserve craft
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ANI: Known nationally and internationally for its meticulous and fine woodcraft, Saharanpur`s wood industry is struggling hard to survive in the present competitive market.

Challenged by Chinese mechanised products and increased cost of handicraft, the artisans of Saharanpur are optimistically looking towards the government for support and welfare.

From daily wage labourers of the industry to those exporting these wooden products, all stakeholders have a common issue - decreasing demand and lowering profits.

Speaking to ANI, a wood carving factory owner, Haji Mohammad Ali Ansari, alleged that none of the governments have ever bothered to care about the industry and the situation has only worsened with time.

"I never got any formal education and have been in this business since the beginning. No governments have ever provided any facility to this industry. While our international competitors have the best of machines, we are still competing with them through our handiwork. Even then the daily labour cost is very low and it is getting very difficult to sustain in this business."

He also said that due to GST, the demand has suffered as consumers are cutting their needs due to increased cost. Echoing similar sentiments, a woodcarving industry exporter Adnan Siddiqui said, "There has been a change since after 2010 when VAT was introduced, the handicraft tax rebate was curtailed. Later when GST was introduced the situation worsened. The cost has gone up by over 40 per cent which has adversely affected the business."
"Handwork is the specialty of our region but the time is of competition and Chinese machinery is giving us tough competition. The high demand products include wooden decorative items, furniture, and handicrafts. Considering environmental issues we are also making increased use of new wood", he added. 

Siddiqui also claimed that about 3 to 3.5 lakh people are engaged in the wood industry in the region."The exports from Saharanpur is worth thousands of crore. We want the government to make some policies to support wood artisans," he said.

Incidentally, labourers and artisans are the ones to be most affected by these changing dynamics of the wood industry and are working at meagre wages to make ends meet. One of the local artisans, Zaheer, said, "I have been working in this industry since childhood. Our daily wage is a meagre Rs 300. It is very difficult for us to sustain a living and provide a decent life to our family."

Another worker, Gufran, said, "No matter what government is there we just want better wages so that we can provide better education to our children. The government must ensure that our wages are increased."The industry is pegging hopes on the government to give them relief in taxation to revive the struggling art.