By Priya Agarwal
Moradabad, a city situated on the banks of Ramganga river has established its name as a city of Brass ( peetalnagri). Known for its beautiful handicrafts, this town is home to a variety of exporters who deal with metals such as, brass, aluminum , iron and other metalware. “The coronavirus pandemic has had devastating effects on the industries especially artisans and craftsmen whose lives depend on the handicraft business. As the exports continue to be impacted significantly, stores are closing down globally, therefore, there will be no new business to sustain them and the business at hand is also at risk,” says Sanjeev Agarwal, a senior export industry professional at Comet Handicrafts.
The handicraft sector provides livelihood to a large number of people. The highest amongst those are the poor Muslim workers of the area. However, in recent times they have had to deal with joblessness due to various factors such as worldwide economic slowdown and lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The pandemic has affected lives globally, forcing people and countries to confine themselves in their houses. It has also affected businesses across the globe. The handicraft industry has dominantly been a cash-based industry. The artisans and exporters are trying to figure out how to manage without cash, as they are unable to pay the craftsmen. Under these circumstances the industry in Moradabad has also faced a roadblock.
“The cost for raw material has seen an increase for the last 20 years which in turn affects the cost of handicraft items using brass as a raw material, says Sanjiv Agarwal.
Visibility is a factor that small and medium export houses depend upon to receive orders for their products. To achieve this they take part in fairs organized oversea in countries such as Frankfurt, New York and Chicago. Due to the virus there was hardly any footfall in the Ambiënte fair organized in Frankfurt this year ( 2020) as many business houses such as Target chose to avoid the fair as per the pandemic guidelines provided. There were 150 representatives in the fair from Moradabad. And other fairs such as the ‘Indian Handicraft’s and Gift’s Fair’ that were to be organised in Delhi in the month of April have been cancelled too.
The industry is looking at an estimated loss of Rs. 700 crore as the buyers are cancelling the orders or not placing any new ones. Adding to their worry is the fact that they are dependent on imports from China to fulfil their orders. The factories and manufacturing units have been shut due to preventative measures taken against the virus, which further worsens the situation.
The lockdown will have lasting effects on all sectors, especially on sectors such as handicrafts will suffer huge losses. Bigger export houses may be able to stand the storm however, the small craftsmen who were paid per order will be the ones most affected. The brass industry of Moradabad has suffered a lot in a small period and might require time to recover. Due to lack of work many artisans will face extremities and may have to look for alternative work to sustain themselves. However, it won’t be easy for them as they have learnt and polished a single art their entire life.