THE ECONOMIC WEEKLY A September 26, 1953 Survey of the Economic and Social Conditions of the Chamars of Barpali in Orissa Nityananda Patnaik (Continued from previous issue) In this thud and final instalment is surveyed the economic conditions of those Chamars who combine other occupations with work on hides or do not work on hides at all. The author concludes with an opinion survey on the proposal for starting a shoe or fanning factory in Barpali. T O give a complete account of the economics of shoe-making, it is also necessary to note the implements and machines used for i t . This is given in Table V I . CHAMAR, BUSINESSMAN AND SHOEMAKER Kanci Meher combines three different occupations. He cultivates the land of other people on Chhodol system and got a crop last year of 7 purugs of paddy and paid Rs 80 to the landlord. This paddy is sufficient to feed his family for about 7 months. For the rest of the year he depends on his income from shoemaking and hide business, He sells hides for 6 months and makes shoes for the other 6 months of the year. Last year he sent 4 cartloads of hides (400 pieces) to Sambalpur. He purchased the hides at Rs 2 apiece, paying in all Rs 800 for the lot. He sold them at Rs 40 per maund. A maund averages 10 to 12 pieces of hide, so for approximately 36 maunds he got Rs 3,240. He collected these hides from places as distant as Bhandaritikra, Kharpnunda, Bamni, Gaisclet, Bheren, Chichinda, Remenda, etc. In transporting the hides from those places to his home and then to Sambalpur he spent Rs 1 20, at Rs 30 per cartload of 100 hides. For salting them, he spent Rs 100. Thus his net earning last year from trade in hides was Rs 220. Regarding his shoe business, which he carries on in the other 6 months of the year, whatever shoes he makes, he sells in weekly markets at Barpali, Rampur and Bargarh. His earnings from shoemaking for the 6 months are shown in Table V I I . Tanning. K M knows tanning and described to me how he does i t . First the hide is dried in the sun for a day and then soaked in water. Then it is taken out, anointed w i t h lime, rolled up and put in a vat of lime-water where it is kept immersed for about a fortnight during which it is twice washed thoroughly in the lime water. After this fortnight, the hide is put into a tank of fresh water for a day. Then any flesh that may still be sticking to the hide is scrapcd off and the hide is put into harida (turmeric) water. If young unripe harida beans are available, they are boiled in water. The ripe ones are pounded and the powder mixed w i t h water. The hide is kept under this water for two days. Then it is dried, folded in the middle and berth ends sewed to make a bag with a narrow opening at the top. The bag is filled w i t h either sahaj or rengal bark powder and fresh water poured in to fill it to the top. The bag thus filled w i t h bark powder and water is then hung from a tree for half a day, so two pieces of hide may easily be tanned in bark in a day. After this tanning, which they call heug, the bag is unsewed, unfolded and the bark powder taken out. Finally the hide is dried well and the process is complete. 1065 K M does not want to carry on business in hides any longer because (1) he has no cash to buy hides and (2) if he borrows from the Mahajan in Sambalpur, he is bound to sell all the hides to him under certain conditions, l i e must sell at half rate those hides which the Mahajan considers to be of inferior quality and it is the Mahajan who fixes the rate. Even though he promised to pay Rs 40 per maund, the Mahajan does not keep his word but often when K M arrives at the .shop with cartloads of hide, he is told the market price has dropped to Rs 30 and he must sell at that rate. This means to him a loss because as the Mahajan gives him money in advance, K M also gives money in advance to the Chasis who supply him with hides. THE ECONOMIC WEEKLY September 26, 1953 He buys from them at a rate profitable on the basis of the rate promised h i m . So as he learns from the Mahajan that the price for the lot has been cut by Rs 10, he gets a shock and becomes disheartened. To avoid this system of advances, the only alternative is to borrow from a money-lender at a rate of interest of 3 per cent a months Even then the Mahajan cheats h i m in selecting and weighing the hides and in the rate paid. AGRICULTURIST CHAMARS There are seven families of Chamars who depend entirely on agriculture and daily labour and do not work on hides at all. One among them is the only one in the whole Chamar population of the village who knows carpentry. This man has been working as a carpenter for the last 25 years, making looms, doors, door-frames, wooden boxes, tables and chairs, He says he ordinarily earns Rs 35 to Rs 40 monthly. He has no children. He and his wife make up his family. He has one and one-half acres of land and last year he got from it 6 purugs of paddy which fed them for about 8 months. This man docs not want to do any work on hide, He says he would feel ashamed to work on hide for he considers carpentry superior to shoemaking, tanning and selling hides. He says that nobody looks down on carpentry as it is practised by people belonging to all kinds of caste. On the other hand, leather work and tanning arc considered as low caste's job everywhere in this country. and sells, the more profit he makes. This truly applies to these men. They buy hides from the rural Chamars and Gandas at Re 1 to Rs 2 apiece, and sell them at Rs 4-4 to Rs 5 apiece. If a shoe factory is opened in the village, then hides w i l l be needed for running i t . The rich beparis who are selling the hides in Sambalpur w i l l be asked to supply hides to the factory instead. Government w i l l control the price of hides and w i l l ask the beparis to sell at the controlled rate. In course of years, Government w i l l control buying and selling of hides. The beparis can no longer send them to Sambalpur, nor can they sell any more at a higher price. As soon as Government intervenes and a factory is set up in Barpali, the rural Gamklas, Ghasis and Chamars who arc now selling the hides to the beparis at extremely low rates, will no longer do so. They will be clever and at the instigation of the Government, they will demand a reasonable price. I n that case, the beparis will suffer a great loss. On the one hand, they will have to purchase hides from outlying villages at a higher price and sell them to the factory at a controlled rate which will be, they think, much lower than that in Sambalpur. DIVIDED OPINION ABOUT FACTORY At the time of conducting the survey among the Chamars, they were told nothing about the proposed tanning industry. But some of them suspected that it was probably for opening a shoe or tanning factory that such data were being collected. I could sense from the behaviour and casual remarks of the people that the shoemakers and tanners who are not beparis would welcome the idea of starting a factory but the beparis would not. As a matter of fact when the suggestion for opening a shoe factory was put up for discussion by the people, some of the beparis such as Kama, Kesab and Lochana strongly resented and opposed the idea and for excellent reasons as here is the way they are thinking. They are the richest men among all the Chamars of the village. They collect large numbers of hides and supply them to the Mahajan. For this the Mahajan gives them good terms. The more hides a man collects 1066 The shoemakers, tanners and landless Chamars, however, are strongly in favour of starting a factory in the village. As mentioned above, whatever shoes are made here, are sold in the local markets. As the shoes are made of inferior tanned leather and are shabby to look at because of inferior making, they are sold at a very low price. No big market would accept these inferior shoes. Moreover, shoes sell more in some seasons than in others and there is never an even demand at all seasons in this locality. The Chamar suffers most in those months when shoes arc not much wanted. After the Canal officers came here, the sale of shoes has increased. But these officers are not to be depended on as they w i l l not remain in this locality permanently. Therefore, the Chamars, shoemakers and tanners like the idea of having a factory in which they may learn improved tanning and shoemaking practices. They believe they can tan better and make better shoes in the factory. As all the tanned leather w i l l not be used in shoemaking and as all the shoes made in the factory w i l l not be sold in the locality, the surplus can be sent outside to bigger markets. A l l this, they believe, w i l l ameliorate their present economic condition.