Vijayawada

Decent life a distant dream for bamboo artisans

Seek govt. to set up a society for them to avail subsidies

Tucked in a small corner near Red Circle behind IGMC stadium, Mahesh unwinds his day stitching strands of bamboo to make curtains, an occupation that has been passed down to him by his ancestors.

“We have been making curtain blinds and baskets from bamboo sticks for decades now,” says Mahesh, who prides over the fact that people only from his caste (medari) are skilled bamboo weavers.”

What once earned them recognition and an adequate livelihood, is now being endangered by the likes of established textile industries and middlemen who deceive them and sell the bamboo to these companies for profit.

“As long as YS Rajashekhar Reddy was a part of the government, he made it mandatory that the bamboo sticks reach the workers first,” says Grandha Nageshwar Rao, a second generation bamboo artisan.

Rao lamented over the fact that their lives have been witnessing a downward spiral ever since the death of the erstwhile CM. The artisans were the first recipients of the wood the moment it came out of the forest. Whatever was left would be auctioned to the interested parties. Nevertheless, with the demise of YSR the distribution had become vice versa.

“Now, the good bamboos are first auctioned off to the middlemen and other interested parties and the rest is given to us. These woods are unusable to the extent that it severely affects the quality of our products,” complains Rao.

“Earlier, we would get good quality bamboo sticks for ₹30-40. With middlemen making their way into our society and selling bamboo at timber depots in Krishnalanka and Suryarao Peta, we are compelled to buy it directly from there at four times the subsidised price,” complains Janaki, as she paints the bamboo curtains in colours of green and yellow.

In Vijayawada alone, six societies comprising 60 families overlooking the distribution of the wood once it reaches their hands. Mallikarjun Rao, leader of the Vinayaka veduru (bamboo) society, the largest in the city with 104 members says that they do not add new members to these societies because with the middlemen taking all the good bamboos away, distributing the unusable bamboo sticks to new members would be unfair.

“How can we give these newcomers bad bamboo sticks when we do not get the good ones ourselves?” he questions.

These curtains extract a high demand during summer and are sold based in many different sizes. On an average, these artisans earn ₹500 – ₹2,000 per day, however, their sales slump when the heat abates.

In order to keep their legacy alive, all the 30 families in the Red Circle, struggling to make ends meet due to the high costs, have requested the State government to set up a new society for them to help avail their basic subsidies. “If we get a subsidy, we can buy more sticks and earn a higher revenue by selling curtains,” says Naresh, who is a third generation bamboo artisan.

People of the medari caste are renowned for making baskets and curtains from bamboo sticks. Medaris were the first ones to make boats and houses using bamboo, which were considered to be breakthrough innovations. Each product made is a result of the toil of all family members.

Govt. measures

Last year, the State government set up a State Bamboo Mission with a goal to encourage its cultivation and promote bamboo-based industries in handicrafts sector. The mission, which was to be headed by the Forest Department, promised to draw up a comprehensive action plan to link Vana Samrakshana Samithies (VSS) and local groups whose main source of livelihood depended on bamboo, but the plan has not yet been implemented.

“We do not have any idea about their situation since the societies take care of their subsidies,” said a forest department official.

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 5:15:18 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Vijayawada/decent-life-a-distant-dream-for-bamboo-artisans/article28106199.ece

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