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Left gasping since COVID lockdown: The distressed Khes weavers of UP's ceramic city

The lesser-known Khes weavers in UP, who earn their livelihood solely by churning blankets out of yarns of cotton, have been rendered jobless since the great lockdown began in March.

Published: 13th July 2020 07:20 PM  |   Last Updated: 13th July 2020 11:33 PM   |  A+A-

A Khes weaver working in his loom in Uttar Pradesh's Khurja. (Photo|Shashank Gupta)

A Khes weaver working in his loom in Uttar Pradesh's Khurja. (Photo|Shashank Gupta)

Online Desk

Nestled in the heart of Khurja, Uttar Pradesh's ceramic city, a close-knit weavers' community has been battling to make ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lesser-known Khes weavers in UP, who earn their livelihood solely by churning blankets out of yarns of cotton, have been rendered jobless since the great lockdown began in March.

Although the dusty city has been a famous hub of pottery with a rich history that dates back 500 years, the cottage textile industry, which has been thriving for the past two generations, has taken a beating.

"We are distressed by the amount of loss we are facing and there has been no support from the (Yogi Adityanath) government so far," said Sona, a second-generation Khes weaver.

The sole breadwinner in the family of five, 38-year-old Sona has been weaving at least 20 pairs of Khes blankets a day despite little or no demand.

"I have been working for the past 30 years. I have three kids to take care of. How am I supposed to feed them with no demand in place," he asks.

Sona weaves on his loom. (Photo| Shashank Gupta)

Made of coarse yarn, Khes is a light cotton blanket produced in the northwestern belt of India and used during the onset of winter.  

Khes is often woven with cotton or recycled wool in solid colours or checkered patterns and at times in an amalgamation of colourful threads that contribute to its richness. 

From being used as shawls for men in the past, to now being used in bedding and upholstery, the allure of the fabric lies in its multifunctionality. The fabric is said to have been celebrated by the Mughals as well. 

Although the weave might have its home in Punjab and Haryana's Sonipat, as many as 15 families in Khurja have made it their own. 

These weavers weren't selling their blankets directly in the market and the disrupted supply chain had brought their business to a standstill.

While Narendra Modi's call for 'Vocal for Local' has fallen short of Yogi's ears in this instance, a JNU student has been helping the community to digitally connect the weavers to potential customers worldwide.

Shashank Gupta, a resident of Khurja, through his Instagram page The Random Delhi has been bringing their hard work to the fore. 

"I returned to Khurja during the lockdown and came to know that the weavers have been suffering a lot. My hometown is known for its ceramic work but there is a very lesser-known weavers' community that is struggling to make ends meet. They have been making blankets, floor covers, et al. I started my efforts to connect them digitally from June 25. So far, we have received a decent response, most from Delhi-NCR and Chennai," he said.

"We are taking the products directly from the local weavers and selling it to the customers without any intermediary," he added. 

You can contact 88263 65320 to extend your help.

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