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September 24, 2006
Organiser Home
Rural Economy
Kerala Newsletter
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The Moving Finger Writes

September 24, 2006

Page: 10/43

Home > 2006 Issues > September 24, 2006

Rural Economy

Timeless splendour of Orissa handloom in grave decline

By Sanjaya Jena

However in terms of number of national awardees in this field, Orissa comes second with 74 craftsmen bagging the national award.

Orissa?S glorious tradition of craftsmanship goes back to several centuries into history. The intricate motifs and the exquisite designs perfected by its master craftsman over generations have earned praise from connoisseurs and customers alike.

Unfortunately, however this admiration has not really led to a great demand for Orissan handicrafts and a consequent improvement in artisan?s lot.

Government statistics says while 58 Lakh families are involved in handloom and handicrafts throughout the country, the corresponding figure in Orissa is 5 Lakh families making the State the 3rd largest in terms of artisan?s population.

However in terms of number of national awardees in this field, Orissa comes second with 74 craftsmen bagging the national award.

But most shockingly against the encouraging above figures Orissa lags behind in terms of production and sale. While at national level turnover from the handicrafts has gone well beyond 20,000 crores, Orissa has failed to cross even 100 crores. This is much less compared to the population and the skill available in the State.

Says Sisir Sahoo of Kalinga Silpi Mahasangha, ?The first is the absence of organised community initiative, which has forced the average artisan to plough a lone furrow, blissfully unaware of the immense market potential his product has. The second?which essentially is an offshoot of the first?is that he is stuck in the traditional, centuries old mould method, unable or unwilling to bring in the innovation and product diversification required to cater to the changing tastes of the new age customer.

Despite domestic and overseas demand the directorate of Handlooms and Handicrafts in the Industries Department of the State Government says average per capita income per annum income of the artists is less than Rs. 5000/- which is insignificant to support livelihood.

However the department says over 5000 artisans engaged in production and marketing of craft items like art textiles, stone carving, appliqu?, wood carving, silver filigree, patta painting, palm leaf etching etc have established themselves financially and socially with a decent higher income.

The most important drawback for artists and craftsmen to prosper is their handicap to market their products. Orissa Government has only apex organisation established in the State that is called Orissa State Cooperative Handicraft Corporation and has 17 showrooms in Orissa and other parts of the country including metros.

However the sales figure of these outlets have declined and few branches have incurred heavy losses even failing to compensate arts and craftsmen who feed them with their products.

Officials admit an overall sale through organised outlets is even less 20 per cent of the production. Major sale is made through private sector and exploitation by middlemen, marketing of handicraft items has been taken as a lucrative business by private entrepreneurs in tourist places of the State and outside.

To eliminate middlemen and to enable the artisans to sale directly to the customers, few years back Ekamra Haat at Bhubaneswar in the line of Delhi Haat has been developed. However the interface between the artist and the customers has failed to yield the expected results.

The major players of the Handicraft sector are the rural artisans who are less educated and have no outside exposure. They generally are not able to accept the interventions readily. For this the government had organised ?Handicraft Cooperative Societies? for promotion of this sector. In the process 588 Primary Handicraft Cooperative Societies were registered and they were provided with share capital investment, modernisation of equipment, construction of showroom cum Godown, interest subsidy, rebate on sale of handicraft goods and assistants to attend execution inside and outside the State.

However this intervention in last few decades has not yielded desired result. Statistics reveals only 293 Societies are somewhat in working conditions. From defunct Societies, 96 have been put under liquidation and 200 are observed to have some potential for revival.

?The reasons of failure of the development through cooperative sector are mainly managerial, marketing and not changing with changing times? says Himanshu Meher, a master weaver.

Understanding the potential of the sector and capability to create employment opportunity and income Orissa Government is preparing a comprehensive plan for a turnaround. From among the 49 popular crafts, Government has identified crafts with more potential to grow. It is also identifying newly emerging crafts appreciated by customers.

145 clusters have been identified covering 30,000 artisans. Among these 39 clusters fall within Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput (KBK) region.

The Government expects that after agriculture sector the handloom and handicraft sector could play a major role in terms of finding meaningful employment and upgrading income. If the potential is harnessed this sector could play a pivotal role in reviving the economy of the State that is in shambles.

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