They are not only popular in Belgaum district but also in places such as Mumbai
Bullock carts in the district, as elsewhere in the country, have undergone technological changes over the years with improved steel carts replacing the traditional/conventional wooden ones.
Bullock-cart has been in use since ancient times, and it is still being used to transport goods, including farm produce, in rural areas.
Sankeshwar in Hukkeri taluk, which has grown into a major town in the district, has taken the lead in adopting the change and fabricating steel carts to cater to the needs of farmers and individuals seeking self-employment not only in Belgaum district, but also in places such as Mumbai.
Given that the bullock-cart is the oldest mode of transportation in agrarian-based countries such as India, it has not witnessed any notable change.
Its conventional form — wooden-frame, platform and wheels — has come a long way.
But with the technological innovations and modern steel providing better alternatives, the demand for steel carts is growing as they have several advantages over the conventional ones.
Santosh Laxman Kadam, a fabricator at Sharda Welding Works in Sankeshwar, told The Hindu that the steel cart was durable and would last 25 to 30 years if maintained properly. Instead of wood and bamboo, the improved cart was made of fabricated hollow, square, rectangular and circular steel sections and welded to give strong joints.
The wheels were cushioned with hard tyres to ensure better road grip and smooth movement, and thereby, bring down the weight on the oxen.
Farmers too have found such carts better and convenient, and rigid than the wooden ones.
The other advantages are simple technology, easy to fabricate and weld, lesser weight, non-breakable, and competitive price and minimum maintenance.
However, the yoke is made of wood as a metallic one could cause injury to the animals.
The steel cart is environment-friendly. It is pollution free and reduces pressure on the forests. It carries goods up to three tonnes.
The steel-cart industry is apparently creating employment opportunities in rural and semi-urban centres such as Sankeshwar.
There are 28 fabrication units in the town where at least three to five welders and artisans are employed.
It takes almost a day to fabricate a steel cart. The raw material is locally available.
The price varies from Rs. 8,500 to Rs.16,000 depending on the size, as against wooden carts which are not less than Rs.10,000 and go up to Rs.15,000 to Rs. 18,000.
These carts are fabricated only on the basis of “orders” from clients from across north Karnataka.