The women in Chinnacheri village of Madhanur block in Vellore district have been stitching and readying mantharai leaves for nearly three decades. The last month, though, has seen demand go through the roof. With the ban on plastics kicking in, the leaves are in demand now, and fetching better prices.
“The women of Chinnacheri formed self-help groups (SHG) back in 1999 and started readying the mantharai leaves. From just five SHGs then, the number has increased to 26 now. Currently, 327 women are involved in stitching these leaves in this village,” said P. Maheswari, a book-keeper for the SHGs.
Earlier, the demand for the leaves was low, she said. “Since December, there is a huge spike in demand for the readied leaves. Wholesale dealers purchase from us and sell the leaves in Arcot, Arni, Vellore, Chennai and Kancheepuram. It is mainly used in hotels for serving biryani and in grocery stores. Earlier, 100 leaves were priced at ₹100. Now, they are ready to purchase the same quantity for ₹130,” she added.
Sujatha, an SHG member, said they were getting more orders now. “This has been our main source of livelihood for years. More than half the women in the village are involved in stitching the leaves. Every SHG sells at least three to four bundles of leaves, with each bundle consisting of 100 leaves,” she said.
Their wages have increased too, Ms. Maheswari said. Earlier, each member received ₹65 for readying a kg of mantharai leaves. That has increased to ₹75-₹80 per kg now.
The leaves are brought in from Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Assam. At the village, the women stitch three to four leaves together, depending on their size, and each SHG readies at least 300-500 leaves a day, she said.
Ruban Austin, manager of the District Supply and Marketing Society, said the women were traditionally involved in stitching the leaves and the Tamil Nadu Corporation for Development of Women was only enabling them to do it better. “We are empowering them by arranging for bank loans. We also motivate the women to take this up as a full-time occupation. Their local market is good, and we also help in marketing,” he said.
Article source: https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/chinnacheri-is-loving-the-ban-on-plastics/article25974778.ece