Tripura artisans reeling under shortage of clay, pins hope on govt  

Agartala: Festivals today are not only confined to religious rituals. They have a wider commercial impact too. Even certain trades go hand in hand with the festivals. Clay work is one of such oldest crafts, which is an unavoidable part of the festivals in Tripura. Be it idol-making or earthen utensils; in Puja and festivals, these eco-friendly products are used extensively.

With Diwali, the festival of lights, around the corner, clay artisans these days are quite busy making earthen lamps. Although the demand for these lamps has reduced in recent times as advanced electrical lighting is kind of replacing it for “easy to use” features, clay artists of Nandan Nagar are still producing 40 to 50 thousand lamps per family ahead of Diwali. They say, despite all odds earthen lamps still have a substantial grip over the market in the Diwali season.

But the real concern for the clay artisans of the area is rapidly increasing prices of raw clay sans which there is no use of their craft. The artisans claimed that they are now dependent on the whims of suppliers.

Suman Paul, a third-generation clay artisan of his family, said, “Five years back, we used to source the clay from local croplands. In lieu of some payment to the owner of the field, we used to draw the clay on our own. Now we have to purchase it from Anandanaga. For a truckload worth of clay, we are paying Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000. It varies from time to time. But, we are helpless for the sake of our income we have to purchase it.”

Another artist, Shankar Rura Paul of the same locality also echoed the same. “In 2020, I was in Madhya Pradesh for a national-level training programme. We also received certificates at the end. There were clay artisans from five states: Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh and Tripura. The delegates of Tripura did not have any complaints about the shortage of clay in our area. But, artisans from other states kept complaining about the issue. During the whole training programme, they flagged their grievances over the shortage of clay. The Head trainer of the training camp organised by Khadi and Village Industries Corporation India told us that the certificates that we have received a document that could help us get the clay. If we approach the DM and Collector, he/she will arrange the raw clay for us,” recalls Shankar.

Back then, he said, there was no such issue. However, things have changed now. “I hope this issue is solved before the situation worsens further,” said Shankar.

On being asked about the demand for earthen lamps, Suman Paul said that the earthen lamps no longer have much demand in the market. “I used to make between 1 lakh and 1.5 lakh earthen lamps six years ago. Now the production has reduced to 50,000 or so,” said Paul.

Also read | Tripura: Tribal areas facing financial blockade, alleges ADC official

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