//Nearing An End: The Wadars Of Gargoti

Nearing An End: The Wadars Of Gargoti

The Wadars are traditional stoneworkers with an expertise in stone cutting, monument repairing, and stone engraving. In the late 1990s there were almost 50 stoneworkers (ones dealing with huge stones only in Gargoti), but now only 15 of them are into this occupation. The Wadars of Gargoti talk about their plight and heart-wrenching stories.

July 09, 2017 | Sanket Jain

Suresh Shankar Wadar, 35, is a stoneworker for almost 17 years now. “We are the last generation of the traditional ‘caste’ based Wadars,” says Suresh pointing towards a group of almost seven workers. The Wadars are traditional stoneworkers with an expertise in stone cutting, monument repairing, and stone engraving.

The Wadars in Gargoti work for eight hours daily and earn an average daily wage of Rs 300. However, the pay depends primarily on the type of stone.

In the late 1990s there were almost 50 stone workers (ones dealing with huge stones only in Gargoti), but now only 15 of them are into this occupation. Most of the workers say that it was both societal and economic factors which made them undertake this occupation.

“Whenever a contractor gets an order, he calls us, and we figure out the land from which stone can be used. Here, the workers have to seek permission from the landowner. Sometimes, if the owners are kind, they don’t charge as their land is cleared of huge stones. In most of the cases, workers collectively pay an amount to the landowner. Every worker has been paying Rs 1000 weekly for this project,” says Suresh.

In this unorganized sector, a lot of issues pile up before workers. A legal permit is required before the truck can transport the stones. A truck can accommodate 100 stones in a trip and Rs 400 is the permit cost for the same. Arduous work compiled with no health security adds to the plight of workers.

A worker inspecting the stone before breaking it
With the aid of hand measurements, the workers estimate the pressure point and then start hammering to break the stones

Continuous hammering is preferred for breaking huge stones
Traditional hammers which weigh more than 15 kg are used to break stones
The sharp edges of the stones fly off as they are hammered. These small stones at times cause injuries to the workers nearby

Each stone weighs around 30 kg and it requires group effort to lift the stones and transport them

From hammering huge stones to transporting them, the Wadars work collectively in the scorching heat
Shankar Wadar, 60, says, “One day these stones will cease to exist and that will be the day when we (stoneworkers) will end.”
After hammering stones at one site, the workers quickly move to the next before it starts raining. Heavy rain causes the loss of grip and most of the work is skipped during that time
Dattatray Wadar, 45, says, “Earlier, when we started off, it was quite difficult to work because breaking stones means a lot of injuries. However, we can’t skip work even in case of an injury. Thankfully, now we’ve good doctors, but there’s no escape from injuries and fractures in this work.”
Dattatray met with a minor fracture while working
Trucks are leased out at the rate of Rs 3000 for 10 tonne stones

“Our hard work is not translated into sufficient returns. So, at times we don’t take any permit and then everything else depends on your luck,” says one of the workers
“One cannot survive by just breaking rocks. We are fortunate that the Government gave us homes to stay in Gargoti,” says Shamrao Wadar

No stone breaking is undertaken from July to September as it is not feasible to hammer and cut stones in rainy season

“It doesn’t pay enough and the hard work causes a lot of strain on our bodies,” says 35 year old Suresh Wadar
The workers were working here at Devekewadi village of Bhudargad tehsil from Kolhapur district
One of the workers taking rest after breaking stones for hours
Suresh Wadar, 35, belongs to the third generation of Wadar family and managed to complete his 10th grade. However, economic conditions made him become a stone worker
Shamrav Wadar, 49, has been working since 18 years of his age. He completed his education till grade three
Shankar Wadar, 60, says, “Now, people have shifted to cement blocks and Reinforced Cement Concrete (RCC). The stones which we are breaking are primarily used in temples, forts and antique works of architecture.”
Dattatray Wadar, 45, says, “In the Gargoti belt, we are the last generation of stone workers now. In a few years you won’t find people to break stones (at least in the Gargoti region)”
Sattapa Wadar, 40, asks, “If I won’t break stones, what will I do? Where are the jobs and who will hire me?”
Akash Wadar, 22, son of Shamrav Wadar, completed his 10th grade and now works as a peon in the Gargoti grampanchayat

Photos: Sanket Jain