Though Banarasi is one of the oldest and reputed traditional textiles in Bangladesh, the people who are engaged with this industry are not in a comfortable position at all. As a part of series coverage on traditional textiles this article is the second one after ‘Banarasi, the artisan’s doomsday’. A thorough investigation reveals that the struggle of the most famous traditional textiles in Bangladesh is mostly the result of lacking of backward linkage, not giving proper wages to the artisans, not using new technology, less variation in design, Indian influence in this market etc. But still it has huge demand to the general people just for its good tradition and reputation and now-a-days it is also being exported to many countries from Bangladesh. Recently government has started to give some facilities for the growth of this artisan industry.
Many artisans are leaving the profession, youths are not entering
Previously large amount of people were involved with this industry in ‘Mirpur Banarasi Palli’, which is the main place of Banarasi for all time in Bangladesh. Mirpur is a suburb in Dhaka where Bangladesh’s largest Banarasi manufacturing and selling occurs. The area is called ‘Mirpur Banarasi Palli’. More than 20,000 looms were in production in the area. But at present only about 5000 looms are there and less than 3500 are in production. Generally the number of artisans is equal to the number of looms in production but there are some other people who are also involved with this industry. Mostly male workers are dominating the sector however few number of females are also assisting the artisans. Educational qualifications of the workers are very poor because most of them are working here following their ancestors. Physical survey found that most of the artisans having long career which is in an average 25 years.
Mirpur Banarasi & Katans are very popular to consumers
After surveying some of the outlets of Mirpur Banarasi Palli, it has been found that the price of some banarasi products which are completely produced in Mirpur Banarasi palli are higher than that of Indian or other countries. Overall quality of Mirpur Banarasi is better than Indians products and so people are purchasing those at a higher price. Table 1 shows prices of different types of Banarasi products in Mirpur outlets.
Md. Milon Sarkar, salesman of ‘Mirpur Banarsi Kuthi’ having a long career of 21years confirmed the reporters that the products are sold with different names according to the consumers demand and he also added that the most popular products to the consumers are Banarasi Saree & Katan saree among the other products. Milon Sarkar also added that due to consumers demand they also keep some Indian products.
Siraz Sheikh, a salesman of an outlet named ‘Diya Sarees’ said with grievance that during the last Eid-Ul-Fitre India made the visa processing free that’s why a large number of people went to India for shopping. He imagined the number shopped in India prior to Eid would not be less than 70,000 which affected the Banarasi sales in Bangladesh. He sorrowfully requested to the consumers to buy their own country products to help this industry to hold their existence.
Problems affecting the Mirpur Banrasi Palli
According to Saiyad Riaz Uddin, Chairman of Mirpur Banarsi Palli Workers Welfare Association and Mirpur Banarasi Palli Multipurpose Co-operative Society Ltd., the workers of this traditional industry don’t get the basic needs and the others help and support from the government properly. He emphasizes that the artisans and the salesmen should be given a life security from government after their retirement. He pointed some obstacles and problems of this industry like they have to import the raw materials with tax and duty which is increasing the product price means reducing sales, accommodation problem is very acute in Bihari palli where most of the dwellers are involved with this industry.
Most common problems of this industry which are hindering its growth:
High cost of raw materials
As mentioned before, high cost of raw materials is one of the main problems of Banarasi production. Most of these raw materials are imported and they have to pay high import tax and duties.
Decreasing demand of Banarasi
Open market policy pursued by the government has opened the country to Indian sarees. Indian sarees for their cheaper prices, varied designs and availability usually lure more local buyers. Besides that, the expansion of Banarasi industry in different areas of the country, such as Tangi ,Kaliganj, Rupganj,Shirajganj, Pabna has increased the supply in comparison with the demand. So gradually the sale of Mirpur Banarasi is declining.
Lack of variation in design
The designs of Banarasi sarees are almost traditional. The local designers do not have any institutional training and have no interaction with professional designers. So lack of variation in design is one of the causes of decreasing demand of local Banarasi.
- The wages of the Banarasi workers are not sufficient and not regularly paid.
- Because of inadequate financial and technical supports the entrepreneurs can’t produce standard quality of sarees in large amount.
- The market of Banarasi is mostly limited within the country. As there is no attempt for exporting Banarasi, it hardly has access to international market.
The publicity of Banarasi saree is not sufficient.
- Customers taste is changing day by day. Their preference for foreign products is also a cause of declining the sale of Banarasi saree.
Banarasi is the aristocrat part of the Bangladesh’s traditional clothing sector which at present passing a hard time but with the new trends of fashion the demand is increasing day by day to fashion conscious people so it can be said that in upcoming days Banarasi industry has a bright future. Now government is also taking some initiatives to raise the industry. Already in Bhashantek there is a registered area for another Banarasi palli and also near the Padma Bridge about 130-150 acres land is proposed for rehabilitating the workers and it may be considered as an important measure to extend this traditional industry.