Friday, May 30, 2014

Shola cottage industry in West Bengal: Local history and future prospects2

Mr. Bairagi showed me the awards he had received over the years. These included the first prize in the district level and the second prize overall in the state level in a statewide cottage industries and craft competition in 2001-02. He had also received a similar award in 1999-2000 for his creations. The government (DIC) employed him as a trainer for shola artists. He gave extensive training to the apprentices in the Mandirabazar, Jayanagar and the Nimpith areas.
However, even in this field, he complained of being deprived. NGO’s often use people like him to train artists. The government allots Rs. 2000 per person for training 20 people. Rs. 4000 was stipulated for the expenses of raw materials, tools, and for the lunch meals of the trainers. The Sunderbans development center, which is base in Lakshmikantapur – Dayaranpur area was given money by the government, and they had previously employed Mr. Bairagi as a trainer. But this time, they are having the training completed by a person who is not an artist. Mr. Bairagi feels exploited.
           
On the invitation of different state run organizations, Mr. Bairagi has participated in different state fairs and continues to do so. He has been attending the cottage industry fair organized by the DRC for the past five years. This year (2009), he will be going to the fair in Kolkata which will be starting on 13th January and will continue for 22-23 days. He has already created shola flowers enough to which fill a sack for this event. He was also present in the “Milan Mela” cottage fair which began last March.
Part 2
Shola industry is spreading to South 24 Parganas households by self-initiatives
The future of the shola industry looks promising due to self-initiatives and rising demands. This cottage industry is gradually making inroads into many homes in many villages. According to Mr. Bairagi, one positive aspect of this promising low-capital industry is its pollution-free nature.
This is an agro-based industry. Thus, not only shola industry, but shola farming is also speading to some areas in the South 24 Parganas. The shola tree grows mainly in the wet regions. Shola produced in wet regions like Bonga, Habra, Boshirhat, Kalyani in Bangladesh or India-Bangadesh border is big, fat, soft and fresh and happens to be the best quality shola. Farming was done in this area while the market was in Howrah. Mr. Bairagi and others used to buy shola trees from Howrah before.
Nowadays, the shola art supplies are available for trading every Saturday from 5 a.m. to 8-9 p.m at the Pukuria market . Hindu and Muslim farmers from villages like Bankar Dar, Ishwaripur of the Joynagar and Magarhat police district bring shola trees for selling in the market.
Bundles of shola trees are referred to as ‘Tari’ in the regional language. One tari comprises of 8/10/15 shola trees. Thin shola tari may cost Rs 4 a piece while good quality shola tari may be upto Rs 20. As per Mr. Bairagi’s information, shola art accessories include white thread, Fevicol, glue, 8-10 chemical colors like yellow, red, green brown etc. Instruments needed are 1) kati- to cut two types of shola tree, 2) 6-7 types of designer knives, 3)batali (small)- three varieties. Apart from these, paper cutting scissors are required.
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