Naseemuddin, a bamboo artefacts craftsman from Indore in Madhya Pradesh, seeks government help as he is forced to sell his craft items on a footpath to earn a living. The craftsman claims to be a Masters degree holder in Fine Arts. It was not his choice to sell the artefacts on the footpath, but the current circumstances forced him to take it to the footpath so that his family's hunger could be curbed. As reported by The Free Press Journal, Naseemuddin said,
"2-3 generations of our family have been making flower pots, ornaments, paintings from bamboo, but now we don't have any business or source of income. We want the government to help promote this art."
Machine Age & Covid-19- The Two Villains
Replacement of traditional handicrafts with machine-made items and Covid-19 have been the two major threats to artisans and their artefacts. Bamboo craft belongs to traditional handicrafts which use bamboo as raw material. Jewellery items, decorative items, items for daily use like cups, baskets, stools, mats, cooking utensils etc., are made out of bamboo. Artisans build these items with their hands. However, handicrafts are now being replaced with machine-made items. With the usage of machines, more things can be made at a cheaper rate and within a small time frame. This reduced the demand for traditional handicrafts.
The Covid-19 outbreak has worsened the situation. Just like the pandemic affected all other businesses, it took a huge toll on artisans since there was a significant reduction in consumers. They found it difficult to sell their produce during the lockdown, and Indian artisans found it hard even to earn a decent amount to feed their families.
Government Promoting Indian Handicrafts
National Handicraft Development Programme (NHDP) is an initiative by the Government of India where schemes are introduced for the development of handicrafts and artisans. Ambedkar Hastshilp Vikas Yojana promotes Indian handicrafts and artisans by mobilising them into Self Help Groups (SHGs) which helps them develop into a self-reliant community. Direct Benefit to Artisans (DBA) scheme provides welfare measures like Health and Life insurance, supply of modern tools and equipment to the artisans etc. Marketing Support & Services (MSS) Scheme provides financial assistance to artisans and their artefacts to promote the craft.
Even though there exist various schemes, artisans resort to footpath trade in order to make a living, questioning the accountability of the government schemes. Only timely intervention by the government can stop the beautiful crafts of India from ceasing to exist.