English Transcripts

Narayan Chandra Singha

(Owner & Worker, Kali Binding Works, 72 Baithakkhana Road, Calcutta-9)

We came from Bangladesh as kids. In Payeradanga. My maternal uncle’s home was in Payeradanga. Payeradanga comes before Ranaghat. My parents and siblings used to live there. I have studied till 5th or 6th standard. Then I couldn’t continue because of poverty. Previously I used to do a job. From ’72 to ’75/’76. Then I learnt this and started working on my own from ’76. I bought this space from someone.  Then I bought the machines and started on my own. The work of binding means almost everything. Pad binding, copy binding, ledger book binding even say diary –everything. Files and official documents everything. Say for example this one-first; it has come as a huge paper print. Then the paper is folded. After folding this paper is then cut into pieces through interleaf with 2 forma and 3 forma. After that pustani(covering with a piece of cloth and gum) is applied on the pieces. Then it will be wrapped in cover, school diary. Each process-say this ledger book, client gave the work. Now these will be ready after folding, stitching and all other formalities.

We cannot give them work daily.I have 5-7 permanent employees and I have to pay them whether there is work or not. They are working for 15years, 20 years.

Say- a full time skilled labor in this field gets Rs. 110 -120. In case of stitching- Rs. 15 per 100gm. Rs. 15 per Joot. Numbering is done based on thousand. Rs 6 – 7 per thousand numbering.  All these payments are based on furon (per piece), all stitching is on furon.

Computer has reduced work. Work has reduced by 15%. Earlier we used to work on ledger books, registers, now its almost closing down-meager 1%. Because nowadays all such documents are maintained on computer. Computer is printing even a cash memo. These kinds of work…nomore ledger books in banks. LIC and Railway used to give us work. Only 25% work is there.

I have heard previously that there are 7thousans workshops in Daftaripara. (repeat). Now the number has reduced a lot. Many new machines have made their advent. Instead of traditional manual stitching now there is mechanical stitching. It can do perfect binding. There are various types of folding machines. The number of labors are reduced. Above all there is no more money here. There is not enough money even to pay a laborer reasonably. That is why new people do not want to join. Because work is reduced. Computer has reduced work. But a few things are still there like school diaries are still made here. Copies are no more made here. Every advent of machine has reduced man power. Instead of 10 only 2 employees are sufficient.

My wife and my 2 sons are my family. Working here I have achieved whatever I have now. If I say no then I’ll be wrong. Earlier there was money. The work which I did for Rs. 10, 15 years back, now today after 15 years the market has hiked a lot. The value of work has more and more gone down. The price has reduced. If you ask me why I still continue-it’s just going on. I have become old now and is not much bothered with this any more . my 2 sons. Elder one is an MBA-he works for Colgate. The younger one works on computer. I don’t need to think much about my family requirements any more. My financial help is now not the only means of my family.


Nepal Chandra Dey

(Worker, Shanti Binding Works, 35B, Surya Sen Street, Calcutta-9)

I am from Noakhali, Bangladesh. I came here when I was twelve years old. We came here on rehabilitation.The government rehabilitated us.My entire family has migrated here.  This is where we live now. I live in Chakda, near Ranaghat.

The binding profession is not a bad one, but the workers are suffering because they have to work for very low wages. I am sixty-five years old and I have to work for sixty-five rupees per day. I do not know how much the owners earn in a year but when the workers ask for an increase then they say that it is not possible.

There is no official recognition of our profession by the Government, a profession that is important throughout the country. Binding  is needed everywhere, whether in hospitals, courts, schools or colleges. No official work can be done without binding, yet the Government does not recognize it. That’s why the workers are suffering.  Our wages don’t increase. Can you feed yourself at 40, 50, 60 or even 70 rupees per day? The wages of masons have increased to 300 rupees, whereas no one is even ready  to give us 70 rupees, forget 300. That is why no one wants to learn our trade anymore. Earlier we would find many young boys willing to learn. But no one is interested now. I don’t know what is going to happen to the trade. We are getting old now. How much longer can we live for. We wonder if this profession will even survive after we die 


Shibu Goldar

(Head Worker, Uday Binding Works, 56, Surya Sen Street, Calcutta-9)

My name is Shibu Goldar. I live in Bashirhat. Every day I come from Bashirhat. I am working here for 35 years. My in-laws live in Bangur. My aunt used to work there. They asked her whether I’ll work at their brother-in-law’s shop…press work. I agreed to work in a press. Then joined here. After joining I realized that my aunt didn’t even know whether it’s press or bindery work. Anyway I joined. I thought that let’s explore bindery work. I joined here in the year 1982. Then our salary was Rs. 900. Now we get Rs. 3, 500-3, 600. I get the highest salary here. I know more-or-less all the contemporary bindery works. I know them quite well. Including both Phuron (daily wage) and monthly paid workers, here our total number is 17. Previously, we used to make the gum. But now we don’t. Nowadays we buy gum for our use. Usually we use fevicol…dry fevicol. After every three years when we try to renew the agreement for increment, we appeal to the owners and the owners appeal to the publishers…both workers and the owners appeal together. On the demand of increment most of us try to unite and it’s like a movement. Afterwards they don’t remain in touch anymore. To manage work in today’s market…one has to go asking from shop to shop… even work rate of 5 paise comes down to 3 paise. Nowadays, the ‘season’ (peak time) lasts for 3 months. We need to finish the job in 3 months. Many people come looking for us during these 3 months, and after that they all disappear. March, April and May…is the time for new books. We get a lot of work during these 3 months. It’s not that there is no work. Work is still there. It’s the invasion of the new machines… Machine can do the work of 10 people. The condition of bindery laborers is awful. Earlier, the work which I used to do in 15 days, now, I need to finish that in 5 days. Present day owners earn far less than what they used to 10 years back. Had the workload remained same as it used to be, the owners could have earned more. Our previous owner…father of the present owner…used to start working with us at 9 in the morning till 9-10 at night. The present owner comes, works for 3-4 hrs and goes away. But in the absence of laborers he works fulltime. Our salary is not sufficient to support our household needs. In my family, my son, daughter, wife…everybody works…My wife makes thonga (paper bags). My son works in a garage and my daughter studies. My daughter wants to study…I will support her…she’ll study as far as she wants to.

Chaina Debnath

(Daily Wage Worker, Kali Binding Works, 72, Baithakkhana Road, Calcutta-9)

Q. What is your name?

A.China Debnath.

Q. Where do you live?

A. Habibpur.

Q. Oh ok! So you come daily from Habibpur?

A. Yes.

Q. Who else are there in your family?

A. There is my husband and my daughter is married.

Q. How did you come to join here?

A. Someone left the job and I joined to replace.

Q. What is your exact job here?

A. I stitch books.

Q. Nothing else?

A. No… if required I do other works also.

Q. For how long are you working?

A. I’m working here for 15 years.

Q. How are you paid here? What is the rate of your work?

A. Are you talking about money?…I work on daily wages.

Q. Actually there are many workers here who work on several other paid systems like Phuran etc….

A. No no…I work on daily wages.

Q. Ok…since you are working here for 15 years, what are the changes do you think have taken place?

A. Previously there used to be lot of work for us…we used to start working from 9 in the morning till late at night…sometimes we didn’t even go to home and did the night shift…we used to work from 9 in the morning till 11 at night…there was so much work to do for us…now there is not much work…sometimes we even have to sit idle.

Q. So why do you think such a change has taken place?

A. I don’t know why and how the work has reduced …the work has just drastically reduced.

Q. How is the worker-owner relationship here?

A. We are in very good terms with our owner.

Q. Does he work himself?

A. Yes.

Q. Is your salary sufficient for your household need?

A. No no of course not…how can this be sufficient for my household…but of course it helps…others in the family also work…

Q. Are the people of your acquaintance also working here?

A. Yes.

Q. Today there are several machines which are available in the market. Did it ever occur to you to learn the operation of these machines which might help in your increment?

A. It might be…but I don’t feel like leaving this place…actually we are all in very good terms with our owner…the owner also helps us a lot…so I don’t feel like going…but in case the owner has some problem and he says anything then I might have to…

Q. Are there many women in this profession?

A. Generally we work on contract…whenever there is work they call us…but right now there is another woman and me, who work almost permanently.

Q. How many books do you complete approximately in a day?

A. Well we generally work from 10 in the morning till 5 in the evening…I mean that we start my work exactly at 10 in the morning…then we have 1 hour recess…so it is almost like 5000 books which I complete each day.

Q. How do you come here?

A. I come here by train…I get down at Sealdah and then walk till here.


Sudip Bhattacharya

(Owner, Uday Binding Works, 56, Surya Sen Street, Calcutta-9)

There have been changes, but nothing on a grand scale. Earlier, in the time of my father, or twenty – twenty-five years back when I had just entered this business, everything was done manually. One stitching machine and one cutting machine – this is what the business was based upon. Like I said earlier, papers were folded, then …. , afterwards they were sewn together by hand and then the cutting machine was needed. The stitching machine was used to stitch. Then the cutting machine was used to give the book, wrapped in a cover, a finished cut. The technology was limited to this. But since then there have been some progress in the technology. Folding machine has arrived. There are not many machines in Kolkata. There are a few in West Bengal. Still, it has arrived. Maybe in the future it will be used in a larger scale. With the coming of the folding machine, papers are being now folded by machine. But mostly it is still done manually. Since everyone cannot afford this machine. Secondly, we now have the sewing machine. The covers are being sewn by machines. This is another thing that has changed. Then I have spoken earlier about the perfect machine. For the perfect machine, there is no need for either sewing or stitching. The machine uses a special gum to wrap the book in a cover and present it in a finished state. So, yes, there has certainly been some progress in technology. But from what we have heard, better technologies have arrived abroad which are yet to come to us. I think our economic condition is at least partly responsible for it. Say, if the foreign technologies come to this country, will people like yourself, who are related to the binding industry, be able to afford them? Also will you get skilled labour? It depends on a number of factors. But from what our experience says, when the folding machine had first arrived, we had the same doubt as well, that we will not get staff for the machine, that we won’t get skilled labour. Secondly what may become the biggest problem if the machines come here is that the number of labourers will decrease, they will not be as essential. But our country is so highly populated, that this is certainly a problem. This has indeed happened. If it took me five to six men to sew five hundred books, one machine is doing that in one hour. Therefore the problem of finding labour has diminished at least a little. But problems persist because some of the labourers who could earn their bread from this industry are falling into difficulties. They most certainly are. There is no scope of doubt about this. But it is not impossible to find skilled labour. One has to train them with time. Please tell us about the current economic condition of this industry. The economic condition is not very good. That is because those who are involved in this business, I have already said, are very ill-paid. I’m saying this as the owner, but we have nothing to do either. A few statistics will help one understand the situation easily. Say, a complete book is reaching the public at a printed price of two hundred rupees. Of that two hundred, we get only three to four percent as wages. That’s all we get. Now with this we have to run the industry. It is a very low amount. And because of this, workers associated with this industry are also very ill-paid. It is a very small amount. And for this reason, sometimes we have difficulty finding skilled labour as well. There’s no doubt about that. There’s a saying that only the most inefficient of all join the binding industry. It may be a matter of joke. But there is definitely some truth in it. We do not get artisans trained in this industry. We have to train them from childhood. And this is how the industry has been going on. In general, we have had a good relationship with the government. But sometimes, in some cases, some policies of the government have undoubtedly landed us in difficulties. For example, the present West Bengal government has a policy that they themselves will hand over free textbooks to all seventh graders. The government will print the book and bind it themselves. Now we are anxious to know what the government is going to do. Whom will they choose to bind the books, will it be done from within the state or outside, since the government has not clearly revealed anything as yet, we are all in a state of anxiety. If the binding is indeed done from out of this state, our industry will undoubtedly take a toll. As far I know that the government’s policy, they are assuming responsibility of majority of the textbook section. In that case, a large part of the business is coming under doubt. Not just the publishers, but those involved with the binding industry are highly concerned as well. Now we have nothing to do but wait. We are waiting to see what the future looks like.


Prabir Kumar Dey

(Owner, Saraswati Enterprise, 35/A/3 Biplabi Barin Ghosh Sarani, Calcutta-67

and Union Leader, Bangiya Granthan Vyavsaayi Samiti)

I am the secretary of Bangiya Granthan Vyavsaayi Samiti. We have approximately 150 members. And there are around 500-600 binding workshops who are not our members. Though they are not our members still they are working. When a publisher is in trouble, say the publisher can’t match the account of the number of books, the publisher comes to us. Publisher complains that so and so binder is not giving us this number of books despite of our daily visits. Then we reply that we will see to it if they are our member, otherwise we won’t be able to help. I think this is a business involving lowest capital strength and minimum return. There are many binders who don’t have any cutting machine, not even a stitching machine. After folding the book forma and arranging them, they come to us for cutting and stitching. Those workshops are functioning like that. We are unable to compete with them. They work with their families. They start working as soon as they get up and work till midnight, 1am, 2am and sometimes even whole night. Some publishers have made a permanent arrangement with such small workshops. Publishers distribute 40, 000 books among 4 binders. The publisher gets 2000 books per day from each of them. Then they are getting the rest of it from some other place. But we have to follow some rules here –we pay fixed wages, there are shifts of 8 hours, 4 and a half hours, in case of night duty, we have to pay for their food. There are a lot of such rules. Now we have got various machines. Machines have made things convenient… But they are creating some problems also.. None of our local boys are learning to operate these machines. These people mostly come from Dalkhola, or places in north Bengal. They take leave for 7 days and then come back after a month. Today I own a folding machine; still I have to engage a manual labour for the same work, why? I know that in the name of 7 day leave they will come back after a month. But I have to deliver the work on time. Will the publisher excuse me? The publisher is working by making us the scapegoat. We are the heart of the publisher. The printed material comes from the printing press; we work day and night to deliver the finished book on the publisher’s table. There are some publishers who don’t pay us for a year. They say “There are unbound material worth thousands, lakhs left in your place, can’t you trust us for some lesser amount?” But if I don’t get the money then I can’t pay for the bank loan or the workers wage. But publishers are not concerned with it. The publishers do not want to rent a godown they occupy our binding rooms for their business. For instance, 10000 copies of a Life Science book are published. But only 5000 will be delivered. I’ll have to keep the rest for a year. In case the books get damaged by termite or damp, then I have to pay the publisher for this damage.  After working at minimum rates, if I have to pay even for the damage then how can I manage? They will first pay the paper seller, the press, the artist, the DTP and then at the end our payments will be made with the leftover money. They ask us to come back next week. But there are certain publishers in College Street, who call the binders on their own to make their payments. They believe that binders are the heart of their business……hence they must be paid first. But they are handful in numbers. This industry will survive in future if the publishers cooperate with us. Because we pay wages depending on the rate the publishers decide. As you can realize the wages we pay our staffs, depending on the market rate, is not enough. They are saying if we work in some other industry, we’ll be able to earn a lot more.

Afsar Ahmed (Writer and Expert on Daftaripara)

I have known them for two and a half decades. During late 80s and early 90s I came in contact with all this. I really wonder that this ward has been forgotten by history.  As if ancient people are working here. The lifestyle of the people in this ward is so stagnate, unchanging, gloomy and is so very different that it becomes extremely difficult to match it with any other ward of this ever changing city Kolkata. What I really wonder about is that the lives led by these people in this ward and the work they do to earn their living are equally dark and gloomy like this ward. The hardship and the pain which these people take up and tolerate just for the sake of their living have surprised me the most. I have known and understood them thoroughly. The history of Daftaripara which I have read, says that, at the very beginning of the British reign, Muslims reacted against the British through Wahabi Movement and Farazi Movement, which in turn caused their deprivation from various facilities, especially in the field of education. This, in effect, decided and limited their mode of earning in near future. As if they were condemned to live this life and work in this trade.