CHANDIGARH: Women in Ramgarh, 20 km from here, earn a meagre Rs.500 for intricate Phulkari work — the colourful embroidery done on dupattas — that fetches Rs.3,000 in the open market. “It takes 70-80 days to finish an entire Phulkari,” says Karnail Kaur who does Phulkari work to supplement her income as a peon. Karnail is one of 30 women from Ramgarh who do Phulkari work for agents, who in turn sell the dupattas at showrooms in the nearby cities.
However, not everyone in the village does Phulkari for extra income. Bhago, who supplies milk to the village and has been doing Phulkari work for over 20 years, says that the money from Phulkari helps her run the house.
“I make up to Rs.1,000 from Phulkaris each month. Earlier I used to work alone, but now my daughters also work with me,” she says as she shows you the Phulkari work done by her 15-year-old daughter.
Bhago adds that doing Phulkari work for 20 years has taken a toll on her health and reasons that the agents, whose only contribution is procuring raw material (worth Rs.200) for the artisans, must pay them more. However, she remains ignorant of the real market price; her estimate of the market price for Phulkari dupattas stands at a modest Rs.1,000 perdupatta. The Punjab Government, on its part, has only created self-help groups of agents who act as intermediaries between the artisans and the showroom owners.
A senior official at the Punjab Small Industries and Export Corporation (PSIEC) says, “PSIEC is a recognised export house and we market handicrafts through our chain of emporia called ‘Phulkari’. Our basic aim is to help artisans market their produce. We help them in forming self-help groups and we also train them at our training centres in Hoshiarpur and Patiala.”
Huge profit for agents
But in most cases the group members are agents and not artisans. Daljeet Kaur, member of a self-help group started by PSIEC, says, “I provide women with the raw material and after paying for their labour sell the Phulkaris to PSIEC and other showrooms in cities.” Her profit margin, unlike the artisans’ who earn a maximum of Rs.15,000 a year, stretches to Rs.2 lakh annually.