In poll-bound UP, Vishwakarma Vatikas for EBC artisans

In poll-bound UP, Vishwakarma Vatikas for EBC artisans

India News

The Central government will set up Vishwakarma Vatikas at Hunar Haats (talent fairs) in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh to showcase traditional skills and craftsmanship, officials said Thursday.

Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Union Ministers Dharmendra Pradhan and Arjun Ram Meghwal will inaugurate the first such Vishwakarma Vatika and Hunar Haat in Rampur district – which has a population of over 50 percent Muslims – on October 16.

The move is being seen as a strategy to cater to Other backward Classes (OBCs) ahead of the UP elections – specifically the Pasmanda Muslims or Dalit Muslims belonging to the ‘Arzal’ class as well as Hindu communities which form the Extremely Backward Classes in the state.

According to BJP sources, the Haats will now focus on communities such as Kahar, Kewat-Mallah, Kumhar, Kundja, Gujjar, Gaddi-Ghosi, Qureshi, Jogi, Mali, Teli, Darji, Nut, Banjara, Badhyi, Chudidar, Momin-Julaha, Mansuri, Dhuniya, Rangrej, Lohar, Halwayi, Hajjam, Dhobi, Bhishti, Mochi, Rajmishri etc.

Minister Naqvi told The Indian Express: “The Vishwakarma Vatikas will be set up at Hunar Haats to promote and preserve traditional skills of artisans and craftsmen where they will also be displaying how India’s traditional exquisite and elegant indigenous handmade products are made. Prime Minister Modi has also talked about these artisans in his Mann Ki Baat address and he has talked of the need to concentrate on their upliftment.”

However, sources in the BJP said the move will be “politically advantageous” for the party ahead of the UP Assembly elections. “The Pasmanda Muslims form approximately 30 percent of UP’s population. Aside from the Muslims – these are common castes among the Muslims and the Hindus. While many of the lower caste
Hindus may have changed their religion to Islam, the caste remains the same. So, potters, carpenters, blacksmiths, goldsmiths – are common in both religions. This is who we are concentrating on, as these communities are neglected by both the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samajwadi Party,” said a BJP leader.

The ministry will organise four major Hunar Haats with Vishwakarma Vatikas in Rampur, Lucknow, Agra and Prayagraj, and these will conclude before elections are announced, said sources.

Vishwakarma Vatikas will be set up as exclusive enclosures within Hunar Haats to showcase the work that is done by these EBC communities, with demonstrations and sale of their products.

When artisans are called to participate in Hunar Haats, the government provides them a daily allowance of Rs 1, 500, train fare, a companion to guide them and transportation cost for their products. The artisan also gets to keep the entire proceeds of sale.

The BJP launched a drive targeting OBCs in particular in Uttar Pradesh earlier this month and plans to conduct over 200 rallies across the state. The party has performed well electorally among these communities and their vote share has been on the rise steadily since 2014. Prime Minister Modi earlier announced 27 per cent reservation to the OBCs in NEET and in a recent expansion of the Yogi Adityanath cabinet, three OBC leaders were inducted among the seven new faces. The OBC community constitutes around 54 per cent of the total UP population.

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