Rampur: ‘Rampuri Chaku’, a style of knife made famous by the bollywood flicks of the 1980’s, has been given a fitting tribute here by authorities which named a roundabout ‘chaku’ chowk and installing in its centre a 20-foot Rampuri knife.
Rampur, located more than 322 km north of the state capital, was once known for its several small-scale units that made high-quality foldable knives. With a blade made of hardened steel and brass handles the knives were once in a popular demand. However cheap copies imported from China are giving a tough time to the Rampuri knife and people related with its trade.
The ‘knife’ was inaugurated by Moradabad Divisional Commissioner Aunjaneya Kumar Singh on Monday in presence of senior officials and local leaders. The roundabout on Nainital road marks the entry point to Rampur when travelling from Uttarakhand.
Rampur MLA Akash Saxena, who was also present at the unveiling of the big knife, said Rampuri knife used to be a symbol of fear once, but today it is being recognised as a craft. The MLA said that the authorities have appealed to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to keep the industries involved in knife-making out of GST.
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Local traders, on the other hand, believe that the new roundabout may give a boost to the demand of the trademark knife, but still a lot needs to be done.
Rehmat Raza Khan, a local who has been manufacturing knives for generations, told PTI, ”In early nineties, there were over two dozen units manufacturing Rampuri knives which were sold in several small shops. Apart from the main markets these shops also lined markets near Railway station and bus stops where visitors purchased them as souvenirs.”
Khan rued that though the knife gained popularity after finding mention in scores of bollywood flicks, its association with violence also led to its downfall.
”Chaku began to be seen as associated with low rung criminals and pickpockets because this is how they were shown by the Bollywood, which put the general public off it,” Raza said. Even at the height of its popularity when it was sought out by people from across the country, the Rampuri knife failed to make a market abroad.
”Due to strict regulation on the length of the blade it is very difficult to export the Rampuri knife which has a blade of 30 cm or longer,” explained Mohammad Shadab Raza, another trader. Apart from dwindling demand and popularity, another aspect that gave a major blow to the industry was easy availability of cheap knives which are usually imported from China.
”Chinese knives have taken over the market. They are of lower quality and cost half of that of an original Rampuri, so people buy them instead of the original. Because of this the market of Rampuri knives has reached a point of extinction in the last decade,” said Shadab.
With a dwindling demand, many manufacturing units were folded and craftsmen were forced to shift to other occupations to earn a decent living. ”As of now there is not a single major knife manufacturer in the city. The manufacturing has been reduced to small workshops which are managed by a few people,” said Rehmat Raza.
Considering the abysmal state of the knife business, locals say that the Ramouri knife needs more effort than a statue in its name.
”We have urged the state government to include the knife in ODOP (One District, One Product) scheme and train new artisans and help them reach out to a bigger market,” Raza said.