Banarasi silk industry has a Covid fear: Indian festivals may never be the same again

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s parliamentary constituency, Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, is becoming a microcosm of what Covid-19 could do to the economy, with the famous Banarasi silk and textile industry in the city staring at an uncertain future. 

Textile traders say first it was the demonetisation, and then goods and services tax (GST) that hit the industry hard. Then when the industry was slowly recovering, China stopped the export of silk yarn last December due to the coronavirus outbreak and when it resumed in March, India imposed the lockdown.

The biggest fear of the traders now is how Covid-19 would change the way people celebrate festivals and weddings. Varanasi’s textile industry relies heavily on the wedding season but many potential clients have either postponed the weddings or made them a modest affair, affecting the sales.

Traders say that even if the lockdown is lifted after 17 May, it will take them at least three months to a year to resume normal functioning. What has also hit them the most is the fact that several hotspots that have been completely sealed in Varanasi are those areas that have a sizeable number of weavers.

“A lot of cases related to the Tablighi Jamaat that were reported in Varanasi were converted into hotspots, including areas such as Lota, Madanpura, Bajaradiha. This was in the first phase and most of the weavers used to live there,” said a trader, who did not want to be named.

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