Festival brings no light to diya makers

Makers of diyas (earthen lamps) do not have much to celebrate on the occasion of Deepavali, the festival of lights, this year, as scarcity of clay has hit them hard.

Exponentially rising prices of clay and transport, pandemic induced economic crisis, loss of employment, and lack of demand for locally-made diyas have become major challenges in survival of the traditional potters.

Non-availability of clay is a significant crisis when it comes to delivery of Deepavali merchandise. Freely available from lakes and ponds earlier, the clay is now a prized commodity.

“We paid around ₹5,000 to ₹6,000 per truck load of clay two years ago. Now, the same load costs anywhere between ₹16,000 and ₹18,000. Earlier, we paid only after delivery, but now, we are being asked to transfer the advance online. Soaring diesel prices too, add to the cost,” shared Ch. Sridhar, a diya maker from Kummarwadi of Tappachabutra.

After losing his job as a back end executive in an online bike aggregator firm, it has not been an easy task for Sridhar to make both ends meet. He had to completely depend on his traditional vocation, where survival has become a question mark now.

“Clay shortage has existed at least for the past six months. We usually procure raw material during summer months when the clay in the ponds is exposed. COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown restrictions had made it impossible then. Now, after monsoons, the water bodies are full, and the villagers and sarpanches are objecting for digging up the clay,” shared M. Anjaneyulu alias Babu, another potter from Amberpet, who also lost his job as a collection agent of a private bank.

Cases are being booked and penalties being imposed against truck drivers for trying to procure clay from ponds.

A truckload of clay lasts two months if the pottery items are large such as water pitchers, and three to four months if the items are small such as diyas.

“It has been a parade of misfortunes for the past two years. Usually I deliver orders for about a lakh diyas every year. Last year was a zero year in terms of business due to the pandemic. This year, I had to cancel about 40% orders due to heavy rains in September and October, and fulfilled 40% more by procuring the diyas from outside, to fulfil regular commitments,” rued Sridhar.

Selling the products is no cakewalk either. Buyers, who are equally hit by the pandemic and inflation, are reluctant to shell out the additional price on each diya. Competition from fancy diyas dumped from other states such as Rajasthan is not making it any easier.

“Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao is helping all communities dependent on traditional vocations. We seek his support in our survival too. Subsidised machinery and provision of clay would go a long way in ensuring our livelihood,” says Anjaneyulu.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2022 1:40:45 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/festival-brings-no-light-to-diya-makers/article37216816.ece

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