Ajrak making hamstrung by financial woes

Craftsman Mohammad Arif Mirani said he loved Sindhi culture and therefore was struggling to keep this dying industry alive. However, he said love alone was not enough to run the affairs of the household.

SUKKUR: Ajrak is said to be an integral part of Sindhi culture but its industry in Sukkur has reached its lowest ebb due to government inattention.

Recently dozens of Ajrak-making industries have been closed due to financial crisis, rendering hundreds of craftsmen jobless.

Earlier, there were more than 150 Ajrak making units in the city employing hundreds of craftsmen, but tremendous increase in the rate of raw material have forced those units to close the business.

Now only one unit is working in Sukkur near Shalimar railway crossing, adjacent to Minara road, where a craftsman, Mohammad Arif Mirani and his seven sons were struggling to keep this traditional industry alive. When this correspondent visited the unit, Arif Mirani refused to talk to him saying that media persons came and wasted hours of his precious time, but nothing had helped him. Even district nazim of Sukkur Syed Nasir Hussain Shah also visited the unit and promised to grant him Rs200,000, but to no avail.

However, after venting his frustration, Arif Mirani expressed sorrow over the decline of Ajrak industry in Sukkur.

He said that in yester years, there were more than 150 Ajrak industries in the city, in which hundreds of craftsmen used to work in three shifts round the clock.

Recalling the past, he said Ajraks prepared in Sukkur used to proudly sent to parts of the country including Hyderabad, Karachi, Lahore, Faisal Abad, Islamabad, Quetta, Peshawar etc. People of Sukkur used to present Ajraks and Sindhi caps to their friends and relatives belonging to other cities and towns.

But high prices of raw material affected the industry and then gradually owners of Ajrak making units lost their capital and thus were forced to say good bye to their business.

Answering a question, Arif Mirani said he loved Sindhi culture and therefore was struggling to keep this dying industry alive in Sukkur.

However, he said love alone was not enough to run the affairs of household cart. He and his sons were compelled to continue this work in a two-roomed accommodation to earn livelihood because they were not educated and know nothing about any other skill. He said cloth for preparing Ajrak was bought from Faisalabad while colours were available in Hyderabad and Karachi.

He said Ajrak took its final shape after passing through seven phases. The last phase was to wash Ajraks in the river and dry in the sun to give its colour a glitter.

He told, after completion Ajraks were supplied to wholesale dealers who paid in instalments, which was quite disturbing.

He said that after 10 to 12 hours of toil, a craftsman prepared two Ajraks and earned Rs200 which was insufficient to pull along the household.

He said that rising tariff of electricity, increasing prices of other-daily items and low income in Ajrak making were compelling him to quit the business, but “I don’t want to make this business a tale of past at least in Sukkur city”.

Source: DAWN, 26 February 2010.

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