Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Traditional artisans in India and UTHHAN-Empowering artisans(Part 1)

Traditional Artisans- A section in our society with out which our day to day life can be impossible and  obsolete. They are the largest workforce sector in India placed only behind Agricultural and Industrial sectors, yet unorganised, underprivileged and economically squeezed by various political outfits. Artisan community comprises of skilled and unskilled people who can make/create things from wood, metal, cloth, stone etc. using traditional tools. I will highlight the plight of Artisans in India here and the steps taken by me,along with some good Samaritans to make some difference to their hardships.
The traditional artisans in India is facing the following obstacles which triggered a total financial black out and reduction in the work force over a period of last 10 years

PAY OUT

An artisan pay out is not structured or regularized by government and treated the same as labour charges. The work undertaken by an artisan is not labour but a skilled task, which needs precision and talent. So an artisan payment is as low as a labour, where his work is admired by lakhs of people across the globe and the work is devalued. This has lead to financial apathy since the same amount may not be sufficient for his basic family needs. The irony is that a furniture showroom owner earns more than a carpenter, thereby the value of the work is being disproportionately distributed where the major profit goes to a mere distributor than creator. I won't paint this as a capitalistic approach by any one but definitely not the right way of treating these people. The value of their creation has to go to them on a proportionate manner with the distributor. Unfortunately our existing system and the concerned government bodies are least bothered about all these, since they are busy making money through various means.

EDUCATION

Artisans are educationally backward class of people because of the first factor and zero support from government agencies. The concerned bodies are hell bent to give free education and creating jobs for so called backward casts. Artisans are listed as per their religion and not as per their skills, which made it difficult to organise them for any educational benefits. Education is the back born of a community growth with out which people lack ideas and executional flowcharts for growth and expansion. Even though an artisan has immense creativity for producing a craft but lack of knowledge to compete with a sophisticated society with wide connectivity. This weakness has been utilized by so called Multi national companies and they use their expertise to mint money from these crafts. The artisans treat them like their gods and continue to live under their might still unaware of their own might and creativity. Even their children are not ably supported with education making their future also bleak.

COMMUNITY SUSTAINABILITY  AND UNITY

Any community will sustain, if the same is self reliant and independent. Artisan community is majorly dependent on outside distribution agencies and government bodies for their daily bread thus not self dependent. The first 2 factors along with an unorganised structure completely burdened them and the community is over dependent as of now. This will never allow them to prosper because of exploitation which in turn tuned by the artisans itself because of their helplessness. Since they are not united the strength to imbibe self dependency is marginalized, playing in to the hands of exploiters and their handlers.

JOB RESPECT

You may raise eyebrows with this factor, but this is a major factor for any person to continue with a particular job. Integrity and self respect derive from Job respect. I can blindly tell you that none of us respect the job of an artisan. We respect and acknowledges a craft brand rather than the craft maker, thereby making  young generation of artisans reluctant to take up their traditional jobs. They are not even treating this inherent craftsmanship as a blessing ,but curse. If your predecessor is not ready to carry the mantle of craft making, it poses an immediate threat to the identity of a community. The artisan community is going through this phase as of now, which has to be rectified on a priority basis. Otherwise we have to import artisans from foreign countries by paying a huge sum of money in the future thereby loosing our craft inherited from our great ancestors.

RAW MATERIALS AND WARE HOUSING

This is the basic aspect of an artisan with out which they can't produce artistic marvels. Procurement of raw materials made difficult by middlemen and politicians by way of monopolization and lobbying. These poor underprivileged people  are further arm twisted and made to bent for acquiring raw materials by these antisocial elements ably supported by our bureaucrats. We are living in a country where tribal don't have rights in forest, but poachers have!! Even if the artisan acquires raw material, ware housing has been a nemesis because of their poor living conditions. I have literally seen artisan houses, sorry ' huts ', where they don't have a proper roof to sleep, with hungry kids crying around. The most heartbreaking scene is the situation of  an artisan literally begging to purchase a product to feed his family.

MARKETING AND BRANDING

There are no ways for an uneducated, low income class artisan to know about the importance of marketing and branding. If anybody comes forward to do the same, they churn the artisan again and again to fill their pockets with profit ,leaving this community begging for a living.









The above mentioned artisan plights pulled me to start our initiative called UTHHAN-Empowering artisans. I always believed that, if we fight against any discrimination in a creative and constructive way, success will follow us. I decided to fight against this injustice in my own way, in my own style. I clearly understood that this will be a long fight and needs more will power to get on with it. But I wanted to give a try because nothing will change unless there is an uprising. I have seen so many artisan organisations fighting for their rights post independence, but the benefit goes to leaders and not community and they use them for political mileage and benefits. The renowned leaders of artisan community often lead them to secretariats, public places and so on for demanding their rights, but it is often seen that they will get beating from police and not so called ' rights '. No demands will be fulfilled  by government, if you are not organised and self dependent. I try to achieve this instead of verbal jugglery and political marches through UTHHAN.

I will explain you about UTHHAN and the actions taken till now along with the people involved in detail, in my next blog with all of you.

Please remember artisans when you come across any artisan items and understand that they have to be empowered to upheld our Indian culture !!!



With Hope

LEEMON RAVI