Karnataka

Traditional arts take a beating owing to demonetisation

Threatened: A 17th Century Bidriware with gold engravings used as Hukka base; wooden-and-lacquerware toys and dolls at a stall in Channapatna of Ramanagaram district.  

Traditional crafts, already struggling to survive amidst machine-made goods flooding the markets, appear to be taking a further beating with demonetisation. Tales of artisans of three signature craft forms of Karnataka – Bidriware of Bidar, Kinnala toys of Koppal, and Channapatna toys of Ramanagaram – are testimony to this.

“We saw people line up before gold shops after demonetisation, but we did not expect silver rates to go up as well,” rued Abdul Bari, a third generation Bidri artisan.

B-grade silver (lower in quality compared to what is used in jewellery), essential to the traditional metal handicraft of the region, has gone up from Rs. 475 per 10 grams to Rs. 600 now. This, coupled with poor sales, has hit people like Mr. Bari hard. Bidriware is made using copper, zinc and silver. Each artisan needs silver between one kg to three kgs a month.

Most of Bidri artisans’ transactions are cash based, says Rashid Ahmed Quadri, national award-winning artisan. “In my 40 years, I have never seen such a sudden drop in sales,” he said. A lot of Bidriware is sold online, but the participation of local artisans in that trade is negligible, said S. Shafi Ahmed, founder of Black Gold, a federation of Bidri artisans.

Assistant artisan Ashok Ram, who earlier got paid every month, has not got paid for last two weeks. “The craftsmen are putting off payments citing that sales are less,” he said.

The toy story

The non-toxic wooden-and-lacquerware toys of Channapatna, which had recently gained a foothold in international market, are now feeling a push back too. The traditional toy makers say that counter sales have come down by nearly 90 per cent, while exports are not as badly hit. Shops that dot the Bengaluru-Mysuru highway selling Channapatna toys, between Mandya and Bidadi, are full of unsold wares. The fact that little toys cost between Rs. 10 and Rs. 80 makes them particularly susceptible to shortage of lower denomination notes.

Kinnala too

The Kinnal toy-makers in Koppal district, most of whom are Dalits, find themselves in a similar condition. Ajay Chitragar, an artisan, says that the toy-makers sell and collect money from traders, middlemen or societies. “Traders are either asking us to wait for one month or are offering less than the market price,” he said.

Worse, one person in the family is exclusively spending the entire man-day queueing up before the bank. “We had to go to the lone bank branch in Kinnal village and stand before the bank between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Even then, there was no guarantee of getting the money,” he said.

“Though the government says you can withdraw Rs. 25,000 a week, the banks say they don’t have much cash and need to ration it out to all. This is adding to our problems,” he said.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2020 12:30:43 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/Traditional-arts-take-a-beating-owing-to-demonetisation/article16738328.ece

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