Photo Feature: Kainchi Bazar of Meerut

Sandeep David Rai

- Sandeep David Rai

Pictorial tale of sordid life of scissors manufacturing labourers in the bylanes of old Meerut city in Western Uttar Pradesh. Meerut is known the world over for its scissors, a vocation that's in vogue for the last three centuries.
Meerut: Pungent smell of chemicals and dangerous silica particles greets the visitor the moment one enters the famous kainchi (scissors) bazar of Meerut thriving for the last three centuries in the narrow bylanes of this ancient city. Popularity of this article has almost made the city synonymous with this pivoted pair of metal blades. However, behind this sharp tool with shiny brass handle that serves generations together in a home, lies a sordid tale that unravels the ugly reality hidden in the serpentine streets. The average life span of the 5,000 strong workforce involved in the manufacturing of Meerut scissors is not more than 45 years. The continuous intake of toxic fumes emanating during various processes of manufacturing of these scissors take heavy toll on human life.

Tasleem Ahmad, a scissors manufacturer spoke on the state of health of the workers in the industry. He said, “It is quite rare that someone crosses 50 years of age in this profession. Most of labourers working here contract lung diseases or tuberculosis which eventually becomes the reason of their premature death. During their entire career, the workers all the time inhale fine silica particles that emanate out of the grinding whetstone used to sharpen the scissors blade.”

Mohd Tanvir, adds, “In addition, the scissors handle which is made of brass also undergoes chemical processes to bring that golden shine. The chemicals are generally sulphuric and nitric acid. This is followed by electroplating also. Acidic fumes only add to the health problems of the workers.”

City’s prominent pulmonologist, Dr. Veerottam Tomar, said, “Silicosis and silico tuberculosis are the two most common lung diseases that workers involved in scissors industry suffer from. Silicosis is a kind of lung fibrosis in which the silica particles enter the lungs and decrease its vital capacity. Silicosis often leads to silico tuberculosis. The latter can be treated but the former has no remedy. Only preventive measures can be taken."

However, more than their health, these manufacturers are worried more about the onslaught of Chinese scissors which are flooding the market, thereby posing a straight threat to this labour intensive industry.

Chinese scissors, though lacks in longevity as compared to Meerut scissors, but is dead cheap and the combined ill-effect of demonetisation and GST (Goods & Services Tax) has only contributed to destabilize the centuries old industry. According to Tanveer Ahmad, president of Meerut Scissors Manufacturers Association, “Just three years ago, the annual turnover of scissors industry was close to Rs 20 crores but owing to the ill-effect of demonetisation and GST, the business has now reduced to more than half.” 

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