| A homemaker weaves blankets at Giddha village in Belhar. Picture by Amit Kumar |
Weaving blankets seems to be the only option left for village elders and women to eke out a living in this nondescript Maoist-hit block from where most of the young men go out to cities for job.
Tired of a life spent under the shadow of the Maoists and nature’s vagaries, the old villagers are still busy weaving the traditional woollen blankets even as the winter is set to exit.
Located amid Suggikhar forests and also near Hunumana dam, some 8km southeast from Belhar block headquarters, Giddha village under Taraiya panchayat has been in the grip of rebels for the last two decades, making it out of bounds for any economic progress. Also, it is severely drought-prone and lack of water for irrigation-made agricultural farming unviable.
The village has nearly 50 families but most of the young members migrated to other places for better livelihoods. Only women and aged people despite of all hurdles, still somehow are struggling for the traditional weaving of woollen blankets. “We still have marginal profits but we don’t have any patronage. We would have been in a better position if we would have support,” said Rajadhar Pal, a sexagenarian blanket maker.
Monoranjan Bharati, former inspector and Belhar police station SHO, who has been transferred to Bhagalpur recently, earlier put forward the need of proper patronage for saving the decades-old blanket weaving industry. “I already started approaching the official concerned at Banka and Nabard officials for arranging loans and marketing facilities to the weavers. But after my transfer, I don’t know how to address the problems of Giddha weavers,” he said.
Satyanaraya Pal (54), another villager, said most of the young generation members from their community along with others villagers compelled to migrate to distant places in search of greener pastures. “Recurring drought and large-scale deforestation have compounded our problems further. We do not have any grazing facilities for the sheep here,” he added.
According to him, the youths who migrated to places like Bolpur in Bengal used to take away the sheep. They mostly work there as daily agricultural wagers and their sheep enjoy plenty of foods there. During the rains, many of them used to come near the forests of Deoghar, he said.
The villagers sell half of the wools from the animals during transition while the rest are brought to the village for making blankets, he added.
Amola Devi, wife of Rajadhar, said since she has no sheep, her sons who work in Bengal, manage wools for her at Rs 25-30 per kg. A blanket requires 6-7kg wool while after weaving, it costs between Rs 250 and Rs 300. “Our items mostly supplied to the Bengal market along with Deoghar in Jharkhand,” she added.
Rekha Devi, another blanket weaver whose husband Shyam Pal migrated to Delhi, said the asani (woollen mats used in pujas) have a great demand in Deoghar. “During onset of winter the villagers start weaving till up to Holi in March. We earn around Rs 10,000-15,000 every year,” said Asha Devi, a blanket weaver.