The artisans of Rajasthan, who have made their mark the world over with their skilled hands, are slowly dwindling in number which is causing worry to manufacturers here in the handicraft industry.
As exports continue to dip and business goes out to Bangladesh and other neighbouring countries, most of these artisans are opting for other professions leaving the handmade art in state of slow death.
The artisans attribute receding exports to be the major factor forcing them to take up other jobs.
Padma Shri awardee (2009) artisan Ram Kishore Chippa from Bagru said that there was a major boom in exports in the 1980s during which artisans prospered and multiplied in numbers. However, dip in exports in recent years is slowly killing the community, he said.
Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH) data support Chippa’s claim as it shows that the exports, which stood at Rs 386.57 crore in 1986-87, shot up to Rs 14526.85 crore in 2005-2006. Thereafter, however, India’s exports started slipping year after year and touched anabyssal low of Rs 7870.31 crore in 2010-2011.
There was slight increase, thereafter, and exports reached Rs 24,392.39 crore in 2016-17 before dropping to 23029.26 crore in 2017-18.
“This fluctuation affects our work as our orders suffer and so does our earning. Therefore our next generation is looking for stable jobs and doesn’t want to be engaged in handmade artistry,” Chippa said.
“The small clusters in villagers engaged in handicrafts are slowly disappearing causing worry for the family members of those who have served this art since last four generations,” he added.
As artisans remain worried about their future, the handicraft business here is concentrating on domestic markets.
Ayush Kasliwal, founder of AKFD which has a UN seal of excellence and many global laurels for taking handicraft artistry to next level, said: “It’s true that getting skilled artisans is a bit of a challenge these days. However, he says that the largest employment of crafts people is for domestic trade.”
Another handicrafts player fanusta.com founder Shailendra Kumar also accepts that there is 20-25 per cent de-growth in exports and hence they cannot hire more artisans as providing them continuous work is becoming a challenge. “We are presently concentrating on the domestic market,” Kumar said.
P R Sharma, Rajasthan government Joint Director (Industries) said that there has been a marginal dip in exports last year and artisans have suffered.
The state, however, is working hard to increase exports, he said.
“Recently, the state government has formed the REPC (Rajasthan export promotion council) to ensure smooth going for exporters. Similarly, we have brought in the Rajasthan Export Promotion Coordination Council (REPCC) to provide guidance to the exporters,” Kumar said.
“Our government is also easing norms for MSMEs for starting business. Rajasthan recently notified the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Facilitation of Establishment and Operation Ordinance allowing entrepreneurs to start their businesses by filling self-declaration form. This will save time of the entrepreneurs, allowing them to focus on industrial expansion and production, creating a conducive environment for industrial investment in the state,” he added.
A Balotra-based artisan, Mohammad Yaseen, says his village had hundreds of families engaged in handicrafts. “Now, it’s just my family with 32 members engaged in this art. The rest have changed their work,” he says.
Artisan Abdul Ghani from Jaipur also raised similar concern about the next generation losing connect with their rich legacy, tempted by the glitter of new-age professions. He says that his younger son has gone into the medical stream and has become a doctor.
Kasliwal opined, however, that artisans can be retained in their profession by following multiple approaches.
“Firstly, we need to get access to them and should have a wider understanding of the processes involved. A change in perception from being difficult to work with artisans , to being easy to work with them should be set,” he said.