Bijnore (Uttar Pradesh), April 18 : Palm leaves, mostly used to light fires in village homes, are now becoming a rare commodity in Bijnore in Uttar Pradesh.
Handicraft items prepared out of dried date palm leaves are increasingly popular, all over India.
Craftsmen plait the leaflets into strips of matting of considerable length that are coiled. Later, the edges are sewn together with a thread made from the same leaflets. The fans are then exquisitely painted to make them attractive.
The hand-held fans fetch a good price, but the craftsmen do not benefit as the middlemen take their share. Even the farmers are not encouraged to grow the trees. Many farmers are cutting the date palm trees. The craftsmen are now faced with a serious raw material crunch.
"The craftsmen find that the cost of palm leaves high. It is becoming tough for us to carry on with the business. There is an acute shortage of date palm leaves. We need government help to save us from penury," said Babu Khan, one trader.
Those engaged in collecting the palm leaves no longer find their work attractive. They earn little money, though the work involves danger to life. They have to avoid snakes and poisonous leaves while trying to cut the date palm leaves.
The craftsmen hope that the Government would step in and ensure that the handicrafts get a good price - for them.
There are nearly 10,000 people earning their livelihood from their traditional business of making handmade fans from date palm leaves in the region. By Sarfraz Khan