Tamil Nadu

Artisans find themselves locked out of the market

Manufacturing and sale of bronzes, stone and wood carvings, Vadasery temple jewellery have come to a standstill.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 has left handicraft artisans in Tamil Nadu in dire straits as the market for their products — domestic as well as international — has vanished.

“In Tamil Nadu, 40 types of handicrafts are made and around 15 lakh artisans depend on the trade for their livelihood. The annual turnover is ₹200 crore and earns good foreign exchange. But the pandemic has turned our lives upside down,” said ‘Erode’ R. Radhakrishnan, general secretary of Shrusti, Tamil Nadu Artisans Welfare Association.

The manufacture and sale of bronzes, stone and wood carvings, Natchiarkoil lights, brass plates, lace embroidery, Vadasery temple jewellery, coconut shell carvings and musical instruments, among other items, has come to a standstill. “Tamil Nadu is in the forefront when it comes to exporting these products. Now the artisans do not know from where the next meal will come,” Mr. Radhakrishnan said.

The artisans of Kanniyakumari are the hardest hit as 30 of the 40 kinds of handicrafts are made in the district. A total of 5 lakh people get employment, both directly and indirectly, from the trade and the district earns ₹12 crore a year.

No tourists

“The mainstay of our customers are tourists who visit Kanniyakumari regularly. The lockdown has deprived us of our livelihood and the government should extend assistance to the artisans,” said Jeya Cruz, an award-winning artisan from Kanniyakumari district.

Mr. Cruz pointed out that as the artisans had registered with the Tamil Nadu Handicrafts Development Corporation, the government could easily identify them for release of monetary assistance. He suggested that the State government procure products from artisans as was done in the aftermath of the tsunami.

Mr. Radhakrishnan said that the Centre could allot grant through the Office of the Development Commissioner for Handicrafts and added that it should be done immediately for the benefit of the artisans. “There are a lot of other artisans who have not registered with the government body. They also need the government’s support. In normal times we can reach out to them. The lockdown has prevented us from travelling,” he said.

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Printable version | Oct 31, 2020 1:18:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/artisans-find-themselves-locked-out-of-the-market/article31346238.ece

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