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Last Updated: Friday, 30 July, 2004, 11:40 GMT 12:40 UK
Condoms oil wheels of industry
By Nivedita Pathak
BBC Hindi service

Condom testing
Older weavers balk at using the condom lubricant on looms
The Indian city of Varanasi is getting through around 600,000 condoms a day, but this is no population control exercise.

The weavers of the holy city, home to the world-famous Banarasi saris, have made the contraceptives a vital part of garment production.

The weaver rubs the condom on the loom's shuttle, which is softened by the lubricant thus making the process of weaving faster.

The lubricant does not leave any stain on the silk thread which might soil the valuable saris.

There are around 150,000 to 200,000 hand and power looms in Varanasi alone and almost all are using the technique.

And every loom has a daily consumption of three or four condoms.

At first, weavers stocked up on condoms from the family planning department under a government scheme to provide them free of cost.

Some weavers even registered with fake identities to get their hands on the precious prophylactics.

Generation gap

Mahfooz Alam, convener of the Bunkar Bachao Aandolan (or Save the Weavers Movement), says officials got wise to the scam, and corruption set in.

UNUSUAL USES FOR CONDOMS
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For waterproofing ceilings: condoms are spread under the cement-concrete mortar
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Can be placed over the ends of guns to protect them in desert sandstorms
Drugs 'mules' swallow condoms filled with drugs to smuggle them across borders
Family planning personnel procured condoms from government hospitals and sold them to general stores.

These stores then sold them on to the weavers at 10 rupees a dozen.

Mr Alam says the older generation of weaver is averse to the technique but the younger generation wants things done at a faster pace.

Some of the weavers fear the industry could be at risk if sari buyers learn their garments are made with condom lubricant.

But Mr Alam says many weavers have to use the technique.

They would use another lubricant if there were one available that were better, he says.




SEE ALSO:
Cheap saris and beauty queens
09 May 04  |  South Asia
Children swap silk work for school
21 Aug 03  |  South Asia
Fighting India's Aids apathy
14 Jul 04  |  South Asia
Kama Sutra guide to safe sex
08 Aug 03  |  South Asia


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