Maharashtra’s silver town comes to a standstill

Radheshyam Jadhav Pune | Updated on August 06, 2020 Published on August 06, 2020

Hupari losing sheen to Salem in Tamil Nadu, with Covid-19 further weakening the town’s position

Almost every household in Hupari town in Maharashtra’s Kolhapur district would become hyperactive to complete the orders of silver jewellery pouring from across India ahead of annual festivals falling between August and November. Ganesh festival, Dussehra and Diwali are the peak seasons for the Hupari people when they have to dispatch a huge amount of silver ornaments in the market.

But this year is craftsmen and traders in the village are sitting idle. “Hupari has a tradition of over 100 years in making silver ornaments. Designed payals of various styles and ghungaroos (seamless silver balls) are Hupari’s specialty. Almost every woman is into making ghungaroos, while every man in the village is skilled in making payals. But for the last five months, the town is at a standstill,” says Tanaji Ghorpade, a silver merchant. He added that since Covid-19 outbreak, orders for silver ornaments have completely dried and traders are not able to step out of the village due to the lockdown.

Wholesale and retail shops

There are about 300 wholesale and retail shops in the village, which attract traders from across India. Over 25,000 people work in Hupari’s multi-crore silver industry. Workshop owners here say that the town is losing to Salem in Tamil Nadu, which is dominating the silver jewellery market and Covid-19 has further weakened Hupari’s position.

Hupari is known for handmade smithy work but with new designs made with help of machinery, the demand for local ornaments is slowly getting affected.

“Along with Covid-19, which has affected demand in the market, a high rate of silver has made a huge impact on the industry. The movement in the market has completely stopped and, not surprisingly, most of the affected are craftsmen who get paid based on their work,” says Sarika Chavan, a silver merchant. She added that the industry would incur huge losses if the situation remains the same for the next few months.

Sharvari Waingade, who is into making oxidised silver jewellery, says that situation has become grave with Covid-19 patients detected in the town. “It has become impossible to step out of the town and also receive the raw material from places such as Mumbai, Gujarat and Rajasthan. The lull in the market has affected the local economy. The soaring price of silver does not help us directly unless there is a demand for jewellery in the market” she said.

Adding to the woes of silver merchants is a lack of support from nationalised banks. Hupari industrialists say that banks are unwilling to lend to silver businesses after the PNB scam and industry has to depend on private banks for loans.

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Published on August 06, 2020
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