Families engaged in Agra footwear industry brave several odds

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Agra, Nov 26 (ANI): The footwear industry and trade in and around Agra continues to thrive, despite several hurdles.

It is estimated that around as 2500 traditional families are engaged in the making of footwear that functions almost like a cottage industry with many women lending a helping hand.

And these leather artisans labour to evolve varieties of fancy footwear to meet the constant demand although finance has remained a great constraint to their business.

Among the designs which are much sought after in India as well as abroad are the ladies sandals.

Fancy sandal models have carved their niche in the large and dynamic footwear market.

The new model of ladies sandals is one of the successful improvisations, which workers have used in order to retain their hold in the market.

Enterprising workers keep innovating and retain the speciality of Agra's famous footwear trade. They work feverishly to keep their designs in vogue.

However, the ace traditional artisans who design and make the footwear are relatively an impoverished lot vis-à-vis the traders and exporters who reap it rich.

A majority of the shoemakers lament that their cottage industry has not been given deserving subsidies or allied aid by the government.

"We do not get any loans. Bigger enterprises receive them. We just earn a hundred rupees or thereabouts. Inflation hurts us and our income has gone down from five hundred to just a hundred or so," said Rakesh Kumar, footwear maker.

Veterans in the business believe that industry will benefit from a designer unit because fashion designs change overnight and the industry ought to keep pace with the trends.

"Footwear making families are omnipresent in Agra. Some make less, some more footwear. It is difficult to estimate the numbers precisely. Nonetheless, I am sure the sandal business is growing by leaps and bounds," said Raj Kumar Sama, President, Agra Shoemakers Federation."

He also mentioned that originally these craftsmen were from Kanpur that boasted of many tanneries and also footwear units.

While the traders and exporters of footwear are flourishing, it is sad that the shoemakers of Agra, who slog in their hovels to flood the market with fancy designs, are not aptly compensated. By Brijesh Kumar Singh (ANI)

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