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Drop in exports, sales at national fairs hit artisans, handicraft sellers

Sohini Das & Nivedita Bhaduri  |  Kolkata 

Artisans from across India have been hit by the drop in exports and sales at major national fairs this year.

Most artisans that Business Standard spoke to on the opening day of the Kolkata Haat--the new weekend attraction modelled on the Dilli Haat--said that the year had been bad for exports.

Kamal Hasan from Birbhum who specialises in 'Dokra' art, a tribal metal craft form, said that exports were down by around 40 per cent this time. "We export through an NGO called the Swayambhar Nari, and also participate at exhibitions across the country. Around 500 self-help groups(SHG) work under the NGO's banner.", Hasan informed that he had dropped his plans of taking up a bank loan to start a second production unit as the market demand had suddenly shrunk.

Another participant from Puri in Orissa, Rafique Uddil, complained that sales at Haryana's Surajkund Mela had been lower by around 25 per cent as foreign tourists who throng the mela each year were lesser in number this year after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. Uddil also added that he and his fellow craftsmen in Orissa exported to countries like Netherlands,Italy, Moscow among others and most of the orderbook happened at exhibitions like the 'Dilli Haat'.

Sonali Chakraborty, secretary, NGO Art Illuminates Mankind(AIM), that has helped the organisers bring in the artisans to the fair, admitted that demand for jewellery and leatherworks was relatively down in the international market this year. "We are trying to promote tribal and folk painting forms like Madhubani to foreign buyers this time.", she said.

The artisans had come to explore the potential of the weekend haat at the city's oldest multi-utility shopping arcade, New Market. Rural artisans from the various districts of West Bengal and other states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh participated in the very first week of the Haat. Next week a fresh set from Rajasthan, Gujrat, and Jharkhand is expected to take part.

Besides, helping these ailing artisans with livelihood options, the Kolkata Haat is also likely to boost footfall in the New Market area during weekends. New Market, close to the central business district and once a major crowd-puller with high-profile movie halls around it, had partially lost its charm as new malls and multiplexes came up. The Simplex Projects, Kolkata Municipal Corporation and Nabard supported initiative is likely to get the crowds back to the New Market area during the weekends. The market remains closed on Sundays.

The major attractions of the 'Kolkata Haat' are cane and bamboo works of Jalpaiguri and Assam, bell metal or dokra articles of Chhattisgarh, clay-work of Bankura, and the 'Patachitra' paintings from Orissa.

First Published: Tue, March 03 2009. 00:32 IST