Inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi donning the red and white ‘gamcha’ as a face mask, weavers in Uttar Pradesh’s Barabanki are mass producing the piece of cloth – only problem is, the scarf (and not gamcha) is indigenous to Manipur!
Netizens from the Northeast are red-faced as Lengyan (muffler) made from Leirum Phee – yes that’s the real name and not gamcha! – are being machine-made in factories and are being sold online while traditional weavers in Manipur hold much pride in their age-old creation.
Social media posts slammed the insensitivity of the factory owners in the Uttar Pradesh town who blatantly copied the design and printed the same for mass profit.
News agency ANI reported that one Ubaid Ansari of Shahabpur had started the production of the so-called ‘gamcha’. “Ever since the prime minister wore this gamcha on television, we started the production here. This is made of viscose cloth. As the demand is still there, the sale has increased. The price of this is Rs 70-75 per piece for wholesale. It has also given employment to the people of the district and around thousand people have been involved in its production,” Ubaid was quoted as saying.
With the uproar on social media, the Department of Handloom and Textiles in Manipur has now written to the Union government raising objection to the mass production of the traditional Manipur handloom.
Director of Handloom and Textiles department, Manipur, K Lamlee Kamei, in a letter addressed to the Development Commissioner for Handlooms, Ministry of Textiles, noted that the traditional Leirum Phee designed Lengyan (muffler) which has cultural, historical and emotional value attached with the people. The letter raised objections and added that the directorate had been taking up steps to get Geographical Indication (GI) tag for quite some time.
“The emotions of people of Manipur ran beyond imagination,” said the director.
The ANI report said that e-commerce companies in Kanpur have got a boost as they have started acquiring these ‘gamchas’ to sell them online. Speaking to ANI Mahaveer and owner of ‘Market Goons’ said, “I have placed an order of 3000 gamchas but they have now only 500 of them so I am taking all of them. I got to know about the increasing demand of the gamcha through Search Engine Optimization. I tried to find out but did not get any clue about the sale of the same…now I got to know about Ubaid Ansari who is producing these and I have come here to buy them.”
Assam too has been facing the onslaught of the powerloom-woven ‘gamchas’ which are being sold in the open market at cheaper rates as compared to the traditional gamusa.
(The headline of the article was edited.)