Diversity in Adversity – Varanasi, the Spiritual Capital of Uttar Pradesh shows the way forward

One product of the Varanasi, the city of temples and the constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is quietly spreading its glow in the domestic as well as international market. This product is none other than glass beads, one of the 12 products included in the list of Geographical Indication (GI) from Varanasi.

The Lockdown effect has seen the United States government increasing the import duty by 20 percent on Chinese products making them costlier, it has come as a boon to Indian handicrafts products, the beautiful glass beads products of Varanasi in the form of cosmetic jewelery. While the majority of businesses in other states of the country faced a major slump in the corona times, some industry-friendly endeavours of Yogi Adityanath led Uttar Pradesh to save many of the MSME industries did borne rich fruits . So much so that the Glass Beads industry of Varanasi has witnessed boom in the demand of its products by about twenty percent even in the times of Corona.

To give a further boost to the industry, the state government is developing the Varanasi Glass Beads Cluster scheme under the Skill Development Scheme. The estimated initial cost of the scheme is Rs 50 Crore, 70 percent of which will be borne by the government, the remaining 30 percent by the companies associated with the industry.

According to Umesh Kumar Singh, the Joint Commissioner, Industrial Development Department in Varanasi said that a village in Rohaniya has been selected to get a cluster shed and it will start functioning soon. He said the production, demand and marketing of the glass beads products will be eased under the provisions of the Industrial Cluster Scheme of the state government.

The craftsmen employed in the industry will get further training of the traditional style of making glass beads and opportunities of self employment will also be generated. The cluster will further invite investment, more employment to over 10,000, give a boost to exports and generate new markets for raw material. The production of Glass Beads Products is mainly confined to Varanasi, Firozabad, Purdilpur (Hathras) in UP and besides the domestic market, it is exported to about 70 countries including United States, Europe, Brazil, Italy, France, Germany, Kenya, Columbia and the United Kingdom.

“A majority of the skilled labourers in this industry come from the rural areas and they were unable to come to the factories due to Lockdown. It was after the administration ensured that the workers associated with the beads producing units do not face any problem in coming for work”, Ashok Gupta, a leading businessman of glass beads says.

Interestingly, nearly 70 percent of the workforce engaged in the glass beads industry is women who come from the nearby villages and have an important share in the economy of their home. “Weaving the beads to finally transform them into attractive artificial jewelries, form an important part of the production line and this process is executed by skilled women workers. Thus, the women not only contribute to their household economy, but also pass down the skills to the female members of their family who, in future, have an option to earn money”, Gupta further explained.

GI products and MSME industries form 40 to 45 percent of the total annual exports of the country and the share of glass beads is quite substantial. The Varanasi Glass Beads industry dates back to about 200 years ago when it came into being. The artificial jewelry, curtains and door hangings etc are produced in this industry which is poised to take a giant leap in the days to come.

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