Handmade paper industry flourishes in Latur

When you hear about Latur, you remember earthquakes, drought, and disaster. But making beauty out of ashes is what the Kalpakala Industry deserves credit for. Over the last three decades, the ubiquitous handmade paper has seen a flourishing business in Latur. One would wonder what a drought-prone area has to provide for the paper industry...

 
By Atul Deulgaonkar
Published: Sunday 07 June 2015

Handmade paper industry flourishes in Latur

Wealthy waste: Women sort out< (Credit: Atul Deulgaonkar)When you hear about Latur, you remember earthquakes, drought, and disaster. But making beauty out of ashes is what the Kalpakala Industry deserves credit for. Over the last three decades, the ubiquitous handmade paper has seen a flourishing business in Latur. One would wonder what a drought-prone area has to provide for the paper industry. Especially when the forest area is no more than one percent of the land area.
The beginning in Latur Kalpakala Industries gets over 400 kilograms (kg) of rags from Latur, Solapur, Banglore and Chennai as raw material. The factory specializes in making filter paper, a more lucrative option in handmade paper. Its clients for the last three decades have been pharmaceutical companies and distilleries. The unit produces over 360 kg of handmade paper a day. Vijaykumar Rathi, the owner, believes in providing employment for needy villagers through his factory. Physically challenged and destitute women are trained in the entire handmade paper making process, from the stage of sorting rags to the final machine stage. In a place where water is scarce, waste water was filtered to provide 50,000-60,000 litres for a day. Today, the unit manages efficiently with just 10,000 litres. Interestingly, the Maharashtra Industries Development Corporation charges Rs 17.50 a cubic meter (1,000 litres). Recycling of water thus saves them over Rs 3 lakh per annum.
The industry The drive to establish a reliant rural India, saw Joseph Cornellius Kumarappa develop the handmade paper industry in Wardha, Maharashtra, in 1934. As then secretary for the All India Village Industries Association, he started the handmade paper research and training institute in Pune. TheKhadi Village Industries Board (kvib) then took it over and enhanced the traditional skills in manufacturing handmade paper. Using agro-waste, the institute trains semi-skilled labourers to work on the machine and by hand, depending ultimately on the finished product. For handmade paper 95 per cent demand is consumer-based for products such as drawing paper, bond paper, files, certificates, envelopes, wrappers, decorative and fancy paper while five per cent is industrial, for products such as filter paper, blotting paper, tissue paper.
The profits India stands to gain from its handmade paper industry which today spans over 4,000 units across the country generating revenue of over Rs 700 crore. From Rs 60 lakh in 1991 for the paper exports, in 2002, it has risen to Rs 63 crore. Today, places such as Sanganer in Rajasthan, Kalpi in Uttar Pradesh and Auroville in Pondicherry are lucrative export markets simply because in countries such as Europe, the production costs are high. The kvib has been encouraging entrepreneurs in rural areas to start such industries that would employ semi-skilled labour and provide employment. But above all, the handmade paper industry being eco-friendly is winning on the home and the international front
The process Low investments and capital costs make this industry people-friendly. With a starting of Rs 20,000 as against Rs 25 lakh in a regular paper mill, the industry stands to gain. The abundant use of agro waste compared to the over three tons of wood required for a ton of paper, shows how this industry is certainly the industry of the future. Absence of the bleaching process is an added advantage. And finally this being a highly labour intensive unit, wages would comprise 20-30 per cent of the production cost.

Little wonder, then, that Latur and many such places have more than one reason to smile about. With the right policies and initiative, the handmade paper industry could be a revenue-generating sector for the country. And all this started because somebody thought that there is always an answer even in earthquakes and droughts.

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