228. Though rather a process of trade than a manufacture,
the ginning and pressing of cotton
claims the first rank in the industries
of the District. At the end of 1907
there were in existence 88 factories carrying on this business, 60 being concerned with ginning and 28 with pressing; Amraoti alone contained fifteen of the former and thirteen of the latter. The oldest is that of Messrs. Volkarts, who started pressing in 1870. No estimate can be formed of the collective capital of these concerns, though it is stated that 62 of which figures are obtainable account for some 47 lakhs; and as it is calculated that a single gin requires a little over Rs. 1200 of capital and a press Rs. 75,000 it may safely be said that the total investment is well over half a crore of rupees. In the factories Which come within the scope of the Factories Act (30 only at the. present day) slightly over one thousand operatives were employed in 1894: the numbers increased steadily till 1904 in which year they stood at 6000: after this the returns show a considerable falling off, due perhaps to a different interpretation being judicially placed on a word in the Act under which they are made, by which some factories have been exempted from making them. The area under cotton crop has also however slightly decreased since the same year. The monthly wages earned by unskilled labourers are about 8 rupees per mensem.
229. Besides the cotton gins and presses the District has
only four factories, the presses of the New Mofussil Company and Messrs. Ramji Kanav and Company both at Amraoti, the Berar Match Company at Ellichpur, and the Berar Manufacturing Company Limited at Badnera, in which the principal shareholders are Kasturchand Daga and Sons. Of these the New Mofussil Company's Oil Mill was opened in 1872, the capital being Rs. 6,25,000, and Messrs. Ramji Kanav's in 1894, the capital being Rs. 88,000. The oil most commonly produced is that extracted from linseed, and oil cakes are also made. Recent statistics are not available, but in 1899-1900 the total outturn of the Mills was 2,11,635 gallons of oil and 1771 tons of oil cakes. The Match Factory was started at Ellichpur in 1906. This extremely plucky enterprise has had many difficulties to contend with, being far removed from any but a purely local market, and hampered by the amount of wasteage entailed by. the coarse quality of wood locally obtainable for the purpose, It has
temporarily ceased working though before doing so it had managed to produce not merely the ordinary sulphur, but very creditable safety matches. The machinery is all of the latest European pattern and the greatest care is taken to prevent any danger to the operatives from unhealthy fumes. If the project of a light railway to Ellichpur is ever fulfilled, the Match Factory may yet become a highly prosperous enterprise. But by far the most important manufacture of the District is that of cotton yarn and cloth as represented on modern lines by the Mills at Badnera. These were opened in 1885 on an initial capital of five and a half lakhs; and at the present day contain 248 looms worked by an engine of 22 N. H. P. and 16,336 spindles by an engine of 124 N. H P. Yarn from cone 6½ to cone 32 is manufactured and all kinds of woven goods, both for Indian and European use, including dhotis,pagris,dasotis, napkins, handkerchiefs, and table cloths. The finish on the articles produced is not very high, but they are extremely durable and will stand any amount of rough wear. The Mills have steadily increased in prosperity since their first foundation and now dispose of their
goods through-out the Central Provinces and Berar and at many stations in more distant Provinces. The latest annual outturn was of 1,286,329 lbs. yarn and 1,054,854 cotton cloth, valued at Rs. 5,42,842 and Rs. 6,21,048 respectively.
230. The most important cottage industries are the same as those practised in factories, namely
the cleaning of cotton, the making of
seed oils of various kinds, and weaving. The following table shows the figures in the various plain taluks at the Revision Settlement:—
The oil presses turn out oil for the local market only, cotton seed, til, and linseed being used. The number of hand gins is at first sight large, but it is explained that
cotton seed for sowing must be separated from the lint by hand gins, as it is damaged in the rougher usage to which the steam gins subject it. [This is merely a superstition, but it is dying hard; machine ginned seed is now frequently sown, but in rather larger quantities per acre than the hand ginned. It is considerably cheaper.]
231. Hand weaving is done in cotton, silk and wool and
in a combined thread of cotton and silk.
The chief centres of weaving are
Ellichpur city, Anjangaon Surji in the Daryapur taluk
and Kholapur near Amraoti, the silk and cotton weaving
being mostly done by Salis and Koshtis, though Khatris,
Patwis, Halbis and Gadhewals are among the castes
employed; and the rougher cotton fabrics as well as those
in wool are produced by Dhangars and Mahars. The
largest centre of the trade is Ellichpur, but the silk work,
which is declining, is confined to Kholapur and Anjangaon.
Pure silk is rarely woven except to order, when a sari costs
from Rs. 20 to Rs. 50 and a patka or informal turban only
a slightly smaller sum. The material is not grown locally
but imported, and of Rs. 25 paid for a patka about Rs. 23
represents the price of the silk. The pagri or full dress
turban is not woven at Kholapur. Of the mixed cotton and
silk goods two kinds are distinguished, one in which the silk
is pure and one in which it is an imitation, imported, it is
said, from Germany. The idea may seem incongruous but
the results are not unpleasing, the dull yellows and greens
affected in this particular material being more soothing to the
eye than the pure silks; the colours, however, are not
considered to last so well. As to prices, saris can be had
from Rs. 5 to Rs. 10 and patkas at about Rs. 7. The
pure cotton fabrics, chiefly saris of conventional pattern, dhotis and other articles of rustic wear are sold locally, and are in
no way remarkable. The texture is plain though very soft,
and occasionally the borders are ornamented with embroidery
(in the Nagpur style) in which case a conventional flower
said to be that of the rui or gigantic swallow-wort is a
favourite subject for presentation.
The weaving industry and the allied craft of dyeing,
particularly in al for which Ellichpur was once famous, are
both in a very precarious condition. Tastes have changed and the market has ebbed away from the poor Koshti. The higher castes will no longer wear the many coloured raiment which he loves to produce and low caste folk can get their clothing cheaper elsewhere. His slow and old fashioned hand loom is at a great disadvantage in the competition with steam power, and his own position in the world so much reduced that his earnings for all his fine craftsmanship are less than those of the merest unskilled field labourer. The least approach of scarcity or famine destroys his scanty livelihood at once, and Government has to step in and buy his goods, selling them again when better times return. Unless some improvement of a more permanent nature can be effected either in the style of handloom used or in suiting the pattern of goods produced to the demand of the richer classes, this once flourishing industry is bound to disappear. The coarsest forms of weaving, however, still supply a local need. Excellent small carpets produced at Ellichpur are sold all over the District, and tadhaos, a coarse carpet-like material used chiefly for packing unginned cotton, are turned out by Mahars at Morsi and various-other places, Woollen blankets of a very rough description are woven by the Mahars at Kholapur and elsewhere the ordinary size (about 3 feet by 7½ feet) selling for R. 1-4 in the cold season and R. 1-8 in the rains. Even the Mahars who produce these goods, though not so badly off as the more highly skilled Sali and Koshti, are still in poor circumstances, their wages being only very slightly higher than what they might earn as village servants.
232. Most of the brass and copper vessels used locally
and very musical bullock bells are
made in Amraoti, and at Karasgaon, in the Ellichpur taluk;
excellent gongs are also produced. There is a small iron
industry but all the materials are imported and the results are
in no way notable. Sonars number 9589, or nearly 1 per cent.
of the population—a figure which, though not so high as that
of Nagpur, still bears testimony to the general prosperity of
the District; even the poorest women most frequently have
some gold ornament about their persons as well as very heavy
anklets and armlets of silver. Until recently the Bank of Bombay imported annually large quantities of gold bullion for sale in the District. The goods are generally of little artistic value, being made either by hammering or hand moulding, though if a special order be received more ambitious work, including engraving and inlaying, will be undertaken.
233. There is no minor industry of much importance; glass
beads and bangles of coares appearance are made at Brahmanwada Thadi and at one or two other places. The most beautiful stone tracery was at one time produced in Ellichpur, and the Nawabs' palaces and tombs at that place, the Deshmukh's house at Daryapur and various buildings not only in Amraoti but hidden away in villages throughout the District, give evidence of a high standard of wood-carving having once existed. It is said that there are still artificers in Ellichpur who can produce woodwork every whit as good as that of their predecessors if given an order to do so; and one occasionally, as in the new buildings of the Naubatkhana attached to Amba Devi's temple in Amraoti, comes across modern carving which is not unpleasing. The wood most commonly used to-day however is not the shisham, and this fact in itself speaks to the decline of the industry for it means the abandonment of the most durable but also the most difficult material: and with the decline in demand the supply is also bound to go on deteriorating.