"Jhumka", "surma", "maanjha" and "baans" the four specialty trades of Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh were hit by demonetisation and the Goods and Service Tax (GST), leading to closure of some businesses but are far from being a Lok Sabha poll issues.
Two of the most significant economic policy decisions of the Narendra Modi government, the overnight scrapping of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in 2016 and the launch of GST in 2017 that subsumed all other taxes, did not bring the expected respite to traders, locals said.
There are around 450 registered jewellers here with an estimated daily business of Rs 15 crore to Rs 20 crore, Sudesh Agarwal, president of the Bareilly Sarafa Committee, claimed.
"There were obvious problems after the note ban but the traders here accepted that. The GST is a good decision but has been very confusing. It was billed on the theme of 'one nation, on tax' but now there are different slab rates," he told PTI outside his shop in Sahukara market.
"In the run-up to GST's implementation, workshops were conducted here for traders in which jewellers were assured that corruption would end and it would benefit the community. The benefits that the ordinary traders should have got are yet to be seen, GST has only increased our return filings and paper work, Agarwal, also the Mahamantri of the regional traders association, Bareilly, said.
However,Agarwal asserted that "we are traditional backers of the BJP".
Bareilly, which goes to voting on April 23 during the third-leg of the seven-phase elections, has repeatedly elected BJP's Santosh Gangwar to the Lok Sabha since 1989 except for 2009-2014, when Congress's Pravin Singh Aron was elected.
Gangwar is again seeking a re-election from the seat.
Bareilly is home to one of the finest "surma" (traditional eye cosmetic) manufacturers in the country but some marginal operators shut shop in the after-effect of the note ban, as did some cane traders in the city also referred to as "Baans Bareilly".
Mohammed Naved Hashmi, 42, of the Taj Marka Surma Company, founded in 1794, told PTI that note ban had caused difficulty to all manufacturers, around eight to 10 in Bareilly.
"This is a traditional work and needs skilled labour dedicated for different works like crushing the stone, mixing the herbs and jewels in the powder and then packaging the surma. It takes about three months for surma to make, he told PTI at his retail shop in Garhaiya.
He recalled that making payments to the labourers had become difficult after the note ban. However, he said the issue would not make any difference in the polls.
"The bitter truth is that it has impacted business. The GST did more impact than the note ban. Sales and profits both have gone down due to the GST. Maybe drop by 25 per cent. Some smaller shops even had to shut down, a worker at a 'surma' shop said, wishing not to be named.
Once a famous spot, the baans mandi (bamboo market)in the city now has less than 10 dealers of cane products, down from double till some years ago. Most of the business is now held in Nariyawal, about 6-8 km off the city, where wholesale and retailers deal in desi (local) and Assamese canes.
Asim Hussain, 25, said note ban caused his business more than the GST, which has only caused confusion.
Earlier an estimated 80 trucks (1,500 canes in each truck) worth cane was cut from jungles daily. Demonetisation caused months of gap, year-long loss. The daily labour won't work without payments and in this business from contactor to dealer, everything works on advance payments," Hussain said.
Hussain, however is happy with Gangwar, saying his MP has always supported the local people despite being a minister and helped them in times of need.
"I once needed a letter from him on his official letter head, and he immediately helped me. He never talks about communal politics and is only interested in work," he said.
The city is also famous for its 'maanjha' (kite string) with Gujarat, Rajasthan and other parts of UP being a major market for the Bareilly's special kite thread.
A major concern for its dealers and labourers has been imposition of GST on the maanjha, a product which earlier attracted no tax. The cotton thread, produced in factories and used for making maanjha, however attracted tax always, traders said.
"There's a five per cent GST on maanjha. It's a loss for our business. The cotton thread also has a similar tax," said Talat Syed, 49, owner of Talak Kite Centre.
He said the other cause of concern for the dwindling market is the decreasing skilled labour, which he said is caused due to low wages and rise of gaming on mobile phones.
"It's the youth who is mostly into kite-flying. But now they remain glued to their mobile phones playing PUBG. Also since the profit margins have gone down, labourers are not getting into maanjha making because of low payments, Rs 150 (for unskilled) to Rs 350 (for highly skilled) labourer per day, Syed told PTI.
He said synthetic maanjha, popular as Chinese maanjha, should be banned in letter and spirit to give the traditional business a push.
"If the plastic thread, which is officially banned, but still available in open markets is banned seriously then wages for labour would improve and more youth wold join the business and expand the trade," he suggested.
Spread over Bareilly, Bareilly Cantonment, Bhojipura, Meerganj and Nawabganj assembly segments, Bareilly parliamentary constituency has an electorate of around 18 lakh, including 8.15 lakh women and 83 third gender voters.
Source :- Business-standard.com