Artisans need govt help to survive

The state govt should provide raw material to artisans, who have no direct access to buyers and exporters.

For centuries Indians knew how to prepare utility and decorative items from material available in nature. The Rigveda literature gives description of different kinds of patras (containers) and household items. Later, the artisans with their skill and imagination added high value to those items which constituted one of the major items of India’s export. 

Economic historian Angus Maddison in his book The World Economy – A millennial perspective noted that from first century AD to 15th century AD, India was the world’s largest economy with 32.9% share of world’s GDP. The East India Company used to buy Indian goods worth five lakh pounds every year before 1757 AD for export.

It is not only the art objects the Indians knew, the technique of building climate friendly houses and knew organic farming techniques. In fact, Indian economy was an extension of eco-system which can be rewoven to generate employment and foreign currency. 

The brassware industry of Moradabad has an estimated annual turnover of Rs 8,000 cr­ore out of which Rs 6,000 crore come from export. Indian gold sector employ 2.5 million artisans to export gold ornaments worth $20 billion per annum.

The wooden toy makers of Ni­rmal in Adilabad district of Tel­angana add high value to idols of gods and goddesses, large siz­ed horses, elephants, eagle and figures from the Indian mythologies. Only about 50 artisans survive to work for one handicraft production centre of the state government. Their income hardly exceeds Rs 300 per day after nine hours of hard labour.

The artisans do not have direct access to buyers and exporters. Here the state government should provide raw material-poniki wood, transparent marketing facility and social security to the artisans. In 1960s, every house in Salem had a loom. Today, hardly 100 handloom weavers struggle to keep the tradition alive.

The handloom tradition has declined due to poor cooperative leadership, corruption and mismanagement. The weavers were forced to pay commission at the time of buying yarns, receiving order and while receiving payment which is delayed for more than one year.  The majority of the buyers cannot distinguish a pure Salem silk from a mill-made one. Salem may miss all its genuine handloom weavers in the next five years.

Similarly, the Paithani silk saree weavers of Aurangabad are left with little enthusiasm. Some 10 to 20 senior weavers in the city work for traders on daily wage basis. Genuine Kashmiri carpet is losing to mill made carpets which are sold in the name of Kashmiri carpets. Here, the state government should create awareness among buyers about the genuine Kashmiri carpets which are worth gold.

Senior artisans of Srinagar can make fine papier machie work. One can see the different shades of rose petals drawn on papier machie work with a magnifying glass. India has many craft traditions namely rose wood, coir, cane and mask of Ke­rala, dhokra craft of Odisha and Chhattisgarh, religious paintings of Odisha, Himachal Prad­esh, AP and Bihar, wood craft of Bastar tribe, the warli paintings of Maharashtra, the bidri craft of Bidar, bangles and pearl work of Hyderabad, embroidery work of Gujarat, paintings of Rajasthan and hundreds of exotic crafts from different parts of India. India can have a big share of world artisans’ products whi­ch is estimated at $ 800 billion.

Decorative items

Like bio degradable utility and decorative items, Indians knew organic farming practices in the later Vedic period from 1000 BC to 600 BC. Organic farming is going to be the future agriculture. As per “The World of Organic Agriculture: Statistics & Emerging Trends 2016”, the global organic food market reached $80 billion in 2014 and is growing at 10% per annum, India can tap the ancient organic farming techniques which are still practiced in many places.

Tribal in Malkangiri of Orissa grow organic turmeric, horse gram, green gram, tur daal, small rajma and mango jelly. Dedicated research on organic farming, district-wise bio diversity survey and documentation of the farming practices can evolve a well thought out national organic farm policy.

Houses in India were also built to suit different climatic co­nditions. One can come across houses with roof made with tile, nim leaves, wood and clay were made to offset summer heat in Karimnagar district of Telangana. A simple mason from Kerala understands the geographical and climatic condition well. Houses with sloping roof of clay tiles, palm leaves, hard wood and timber used to fight harsh sun, heavy rain, the wet and humid condition in Kerala. 

Bamboo, cane, cane leaves, mud, and lime used for the building material in North East India were most suitable to the climatic condition of the region.  There are houses made of wood with slanting roof of stone slates to fight rain and snow in Himachal Pradesh.

One can come across a wide range of dress material which are made according to different climates of the country. Like the dress materials, Indians knew how to prepare the widest variety of nutritious homemade food in the world. How to tap India’s huge economic potential enshrined in Indian way of life is the biggest challenge before the Modi government.

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