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