Volume 14-12 No:180
Sanganer: The traditional industries of the Muslim community can flourish if they benefit from the facilities available in the secular dispensation of the country. Availing of technical know-how and learning the marketing expertise from the secular institutions is one of the methods available to Muslims to achieve new heights in entrepreneurship.
This formula seems to have worked successfully for the handmade paper and board industry, run largely by Muslims, in Sanganer town near Jaipur. Thanks to the initiative taken by Muslim entrepreneurs, the industry has grown phenomenally during the last decade. While the leading unit in the town is 100 per cent export oriented, another unit has a virtual monopoly in the production of black paper used in radio, cassette and CD player and television speakers all over the country.
The “Kagzi” clan is the principal owner of the handmade paper industry here. The history of the clan dates back to the 14th century during the rule of Feroze Shah Tughlaq. The handmade paper made by them was very famous in those times and was mostly used by royalties for official documents, miniature paintings, calligraphy, copying of the Quran, and account books of traders.
The then ruler of Amber, Raja Man Singh, brought Kagzis to Sanganer in the 16th century, situated on the bank of Saraswati river, where abundant clear water was available. The town emerged as one of the biggest paper making centres in northern India, humming with paper making activities with the rhythm of the stamper sound.
History suggests that this paper village had excelled during the Mughal rule. However, during the British rule, the paper craft received a severe setback due to British encouragement for import of the mill-made paper from the West. By 1930s, only a handful of Kagzis were engaged in the craft. At this time, Mahatma Gandhi stepped in to provide the much-needed support to the handmade paper industry. He deputed a person specially for purchasing the paper in bulk for his Ashram and other associates. At the instance of Mahatma, the doyen of handmade paper industry, Allah Bux Kagzi, demonstrated the art of paper making in the Congress session in Haripura in 1937. The industry showed some signs of revival since then and its entrepreneurs established the first cooperative society of Jaipur state in 1944. Then Prime Minister of Jaipur Sir Mirza Mohammed Ismail inaugurated it. A power line was specially installed to supply electricity to the units in Sanganer.
After independence, the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) included the handmade paper in its agenda for promotion of crafts. However, the pace of growth was very slow and till 1990-91, only four major units were functioning in Sanganer. Though they were constantly trying to improve the quality of their product by experimentation, they had no expertise in market promotion and the major share of profits was taken away by the middlemen. Exports had started but they never crossed the figure of Rs. 60 lakhs per annum.
annually from Sanganer town.
Realising the need of the hour to modernise and learn the marketing technique, Salim Kagzi, son of Allah Bux Kagzi and owner of the biggest unit in the town, brought in the assistance of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 1992 under a special project. A Resource Centre was established in Sanganer to provide training in the craft to those willing to learn and improve it.
Salim Kagzi visited several handmade paper establishments in Japan, Finland, Sweden, France and Czech Republic to get an exposure to the marketing skills. His son, Alimuddin Kagzi, too visited the foreign countries and helped in the diversification of “Salim’s Paper”, established by the family.
The unit has carried out experiments on raw materials and techniques, and adopted visualisation, innovation and motivation as the key areas of functioning. It is today 100 per cent export oriented unit and its exports amount to Rs. 100 million annually to countries such as the US, France, Canada, the UK, Germany, Italy, Australia and New Zealand. The company has also made a dent in South Korea and South East Asia.
Recognising an increased demand for recycled and environmental friendly handmade paper products in the rapidly declining environmental balance, Salim’s Paper has achieved a noticeable position in the world market as a manufacturer and exporter of tree-free handmade paper and products. Salim Kagzi, speaking to Islamic Voice, said his group had established four manufacturing units. The latest of them has been established in Sitapura industrial area for exclusively manufacturing the paper carry-bags and has the capacity to produce several thousand of them every day. The other units manufacture stationery and giftware. The group presently employs about 450 workers, 30 per cent of whom are women. Salim’s Paper is the only export house recognised by the Central Government in the handmade paper industry segment.
Salim Kagzi, who is himself a master craftsman, had joined his father in his profession at the age of 15 after schooling. With a philanthropic outlook, he takes interest in the issues relating to the community and has worked for the upliftment of the weaker sections in the Kagzi clan. Another unit run by Rashid Kagzi has a virtual monopoly in the country in the production of black paper used in the speakers fitted in radios, cassette and CD players and televisions.
While the entrepreneurs from other communities - taking advantage of the training imparted by the UNDP’s Resource Centre - are also entering the handmade paper industry, the hard work and vision of a small band of Kagzis has borne fruit and established Muslims in the firm control of the business. The bustling factories of the 300 Kagzi families in Sanganer are a testimony to the fact that the initiative to acquire expertise through secular organisations is a key to success in entrepreneurship.
One way to grow assertive is to keep in constant touch with the government and convey the community’s grievances. One person who is a staunch practitioner of the art is Bashiruddin Babukhan, a former minister from Andhra Pradesh who has seen to it that the voice of the community reaches the highest echelons of the government. A politician from the ruling Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh, Babukhan, a scion of a former aristocratic family of Hyderabad, is now a campaigner for building bridges with the government and the Muslim community at every level. Babukhan resigned from the N Chandra Babu Naidu ministry after the TDP joined the National Democratic Alliance coalition government at the Centre. Yet he did not burn the bridges. He maintained contact and finds that selfless work yields result.
Babukhan was twice member of the Legislative Assembly in Andhra Pradesh and held ministerial portfolios for the similar number of turns. As a result of contacts from him and his United Economic Forums, the Andhra government has initiated setting apart funds for the welfare and advancement of Muslim community under various heads. This year’s state budget devoted Rs. 32.5 lakh for various schemes.
Babukhan spoke to Islamic Voice while in Bangalore recently. Excerpts:
On representation of the community’s problems to the government.
Though I often represent Muslim problems to the government in an individual capacity, the government gives me a patient hearing. Muslims generally make statements in the Urdu newspapers and sit quietly at home thinking that the government would attend to the problems. Most of the Muslim problems pertain to education, language, teachers’ posts, housing, land for eidgah, graveyard or mosque. I firmly believe that the share of Muslims in the financial cake should come to them in proportion to the size of the community. There can be no bigger source of welfare than banking on the official allocations.
How far have your efforts met with success?
Take for instance the housing sector. Now the government of Andhra Pradesh sets apart 20 per cent of the urban houses and 10 per cent of the rural houses for the Muslim community. Loans of Rs. 17,500 are available to Muslims in this sector which are payable in 20 years. Moreover, the Andhra Pradesh legislature has now a high power committee to monitor the progress of the schemes meant for minorities. Under another scheme, the Muslim community has been sanctioned construction of marriage halls in the state. About, 100 of these community facility centers have been completed. The government has spent Rs. 15 crore this year alone on improvement of wakf properties such as mosques, eidgahs and graveyards. The government set up three Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) and three polytechnics exclusively for minorities. During N. T. Rama Rao’s tenure, four residential schools were opened for the minorities. These have now been upgraded into Junior Colleges (with 12th standard).Another four were added during Naidu’s period.
What about political assertion?
The Muslim representation in the Telugu Desam Party is very dismal. Currently, the Andhra Pradesh Assembly has only 11 Muslim MLAs. Of these, four represent Majlis and constituencies in Hyderabad city, four have been elected on Congress ticket and three come from the TDP. TDP decides the scope of victory on the basis of caste composition of Assembly constituencies. Muslims hardly figure in its priority. They say it plainly that Muslim candidates get only Muslim votes. But I as a party member have always argued that the Party should mobilise Hindu opinion in favour of voting for Muslim candidates.
There is a general apprehension among Muslims that their demands would evoke Hindu backlash. If the government desires so, no backlash would take place. The Roshini programme in AP was my brainchild. This consists of several self-employment, artisan development and income generation schemes. I had presented a programme entitled Policy for Advancement of Minorities in 1996 which was implemented by the government. Since then, the TDP’s Maanadu (annual convention) has been regularly discussing it with other programmes.
Do you think the presence of Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen in Hyderabad as a political outfit affects the position of Muslims in the state?
It does affect the Muslims’ bargaining capacity in the state. Majlis people are disruptive elements. Of late, many professional educational institutions have been sanctioned to the community. But since most of them are donation-based, how do they benefit the poor Muslim community?
Muslims of Andhra Pradesh now run and manage 16 engineering colleges, two medical colleges, 15-20 MBA and MCA colleges, and 8-10 B.Ed colleges. It is true that due to capitation fee, most seats were being sold to students from well-off sections of the society and Muslims did not figure much in the list. But now the government has tightened the laws and made it mandatory that at least 50 per cent seats go to the candidates from among minorities themselves. Now applications are routed through medical or technical directorates.
Marriages by Arabs with poor Muslim girls are rampant in Hyderabad. Does this not distort the practice of the Muslim Personal Law?
There has been a tradition among Arabs settled in Barkas to marry off daughters to Arab citizens. But now others also give their daughters. It is true that several girls have been exploited. But let me tell you frankly, the Muslims should realise that the issue has roots in poverty and poverty stems from large families. Birth control should be popularised among Muslims. Islamic countries such as Egyt, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and even the so-called fundamentalist Iran have introduced birth control and family planning.