The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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- Grassroots industrialization in Gujarat

Actually, I have not been to Jetpur for 50 years. But I still think of it as my home town. My father was born there; his father served the Bapu or king of Jetpur. So did my uncle; he was a judge in the princely state. His house was so unlike anything we see today. It had a deli like all houses in Kathiawar at that time. A deli was an opening in the wall, perhaps 8ft by 10ft, entirely closed by a wooden gate. The gate could be opened, and might occasionally be to let through large pieces of furniture, or even a bullock cart. But the rest of the time it was closed. Built into it was a little door, 2ft by 4ft, a couple of feet off the ground; one slipped in and out of the house through this deli. I cannot remember if the deli was ever locked; but the closed gate gave the house considerable privacy. The gate led into an open courtyard, with rooms all around it. On the right was the cutchery, my uncle's drawing room. Opposite were rooms for women and children; the kitchen was in the far left corner. And on the left between the kitchen and the gate was the stable, for the family must have fresh buffalo milk. I also vaguely remember the Bhadar river, which did not have much water while I was there.

My other uncle, in Rajkot, was a lawyer, and had a more stately dwelling. The deli and the courtyard were common. But adjoining the deli on the left was his office. Next to it was an open staircase, which led up to the men's quarters on the first floor, with a nice agashi (terrace) to sleep on hot nights. My most cherished memory was of my grandmother's pataro, a huge box which opened from the top, from which my grandmother took out everything that we children were fond of.

All that was history until I met Veronique Dupont, director of the French Research Centre of Social Sciences and Humanities in Delhi, and discovered that she had spent three years in the 1980s in Jetpur. A trained researcher sees a place differently from a child; thanks to her, I learnt things about Jetpur that I had never thought of before. In 1092, Sadhro Jesang (Siddharaj Jaysinh to the Gujaratis), the Solanki king of Patan in Gujarat, took Junagadh; at that time he must have annexed Jetpur as well, which is just east of Junagadh. In that era, Gujarat was ruled by Rajputs ' Solankis, Chauhans, Parmars, Gohils etc. But Saurashtra was known in my childhood as Kathiawar. Kathis were unruly tribesmen from Sind who took Kathiawar in the 15th and 16th centuries from Rajputs. The 143 villages of Jetpur taluka were ruled by 16 Kathi dynasties, of which the Valas ruled Jetpur. The last Durbar of Jetpur was Surug Vala; he was pensioned off when Saurashtra state was formed in 1947.

The Memons of Jetpur migrated to Burma in the 1880s, and with the money they made there, built magnificent havelis in Jetpur where they had left their families. One of them, Adamji Haji Daud, built a jute mill in Calcutta. But Navagadh, now a suburb of Jetpur, was in Junagadh. Its Nawab acceded to Pakistan in 1947. Some Kathiawari politicians marched into Junagadh, and the Nawab escaped to Pakistan. Riots followed, and most Memons of Jetpur escaped to Pakistan. When I visited Karachi in 1956, I could freely speak Gujarati in the shops over there.

A few Khatris ' dyers ' were engaged in block printing of saris in Jetpur; workers spread out a fabric and imprinted it with a design from a wooden block, square by square. It was a cottage industry. In 1947 ' a year of depression and unemployment in Jetpur on account of the exit of Memons ' Gordhandas Karsanji Bosamia, known as Bachu-bhai, came back from Ahmedabad and set up a screen printing works. Screen printing increased productivity manifold. Screens at that time were made of silk impregnated with lacquer to make it dyeproof and then cut to make a stencil. In 1960, silk was replaced by nylon, which was stretched out in metal frames. Stencils came to be made from a photograph. Each stencil could be used for 2000 or more saris. In this way, costs were brought down, and a market was created for Jetpur saris. From one works in 1947, their number grew to 110 in 1964 and 1,100 by 1985. Every day they sent out 2 million metres of prints ' 400,000 saris ' employing some 40,000 workers. It is this kind of grassroots industrialization that made Gujarat India's second most industrialized state.

With the expansion of industry came immigration, and a change in the composition of the population. The sex ratio fell from 1,150 in 1911 to 920 in 1991; many migrant workers left their wives at home somewhere else.

There were two types of migrants ' migrants for work, and migrants from marriage. Amongst native-born Jetpuris, there were hardly any women over 25; amongst migrants, almost half the women were migrants. Amongst male migrants, 46 per cent came for employment, and 49 per cent accompanied them. Amongst females, 46 per cent came with migrants, but 53 per cent came as brides. This is something that had never struck me: that many Gujarati men grow up and die where they were born, whereas few women do ' almost all of them go to a strange place ' home and town ' when they marry.

For some reason, there were more illiterates amongst migrants ' 14 per cent amongst natives over 14, 21 per cent amongst those who arrived before 1979, and 31 per cent amongst those who came in 1979-88. Obviously, literacy is not very useful amongst screen printers. It may also be that the locals have become prosperous with the printing industry and use their money to educate themselves more. Male migrants were more likely than natives to be working at all ages up to 59, but migrant females were less likely to be working than native females.

Females were 58 per cent of the work force in household industry, 44 per cent in construction and 42 per cent in agriculture. Their proportion amongst workers was 7 per cent in the private sector, 12 per cent amongst own-account workers, 27 per cent in the government and 36 per cent amongst unpaid helpers.

Only 2 per cent of the workers were unemployed; the proportion was higher only amongst clerks and technical and professional persons. Of the unemployed, 56 per cent had attended secondary schools; amongst the employed, 39 per cent. This will confirm the prejudice of those who think that there is much unemployment amongst the educated; on the other hand, it is possible that the educated have more money to sit at home and do nothing ' even in a town where 18 per cent of those employed are entrepreneurs.

Jetpur today is a very different town from the one I knew. In the 1950s, it had 30,000 people; one could walk through the town in an hour. Now it has four times as many. In the 1950s it was a sleepy old place. Today it is humming with screen printing. That is good for Jetpur, but I think I prefer the Jetpur that has passed.

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