GUWAHATI, Oct 26 - It has been years since they had stopped making earthen lamps due to lack of sufficient space and raw materials, precisely clay and firewood. However, these four families of Kamakhya Gate, who have since been dealing in earthen lamps brought from places like Goalpara, Dhubri and even West Bengal and have toiled through hardships, have something to cheer since the last couple of years and renewed their interest in the trade.
With a boycott call on Chinese goods and lights by various organisations gaining steam, these artisan families are hopeful that the demand for earthen lamps would go up again.
�The business had seen a huge slump in the last 10 years or so. But the people have been buying more earthen lamps since last year. We hope the trend would continue,� says Ananda Pal � head of one of these four families which are into wholesale earthen lamp business � as he continues to dispatch orders placed by retailers from various parts of the State.
Earlier, these families used to make the lamps themselves, but have stopped now.
�You don�t get the clay and firewood easily. Moreover, the young generation is not keen to take up the work. My late father-in-law was the last one who made the lamps himself,� says Santara Devi, who lives in a shanty across the railway tracks. �We have put in some money this year and brought lamps from Gauripur, Pathsala, Malibari and Nagarbera,� she says. However, Santara Devi rues that the prices of the lamps have increased a lot at the source.
�We are paying Rs 400 to Rs 450 per 1,000 (for the small ones) at the source. These are being sold here for Rs 500 to Rs 600. The returns are not hefty,� she adds.
The designer lamps brought from Kolkata are more in demand. The prices of these lamps range from Rs 4 a piece to over Rs 200. �These lamps are a hit. They come in various shapes and sizes. Artisans don�t have the expertise here to make these colourful designer lamps,� explains Pal.
A helper with Ramesh Prajapati�s family is, however, not much amused at the presence of journalists at his residence.
�Bohut ahile, bohute likhile amar kotha. Eku labh nai. Ami kosto kora manuh, kosto korie khabo lagibo. (Many journalists have written stories about us. But that has been of no use. We have to toil hard for a living),� he exclaims. He is angry at the neglect meted out to them by the government.
Another helper at Prajapati�s workshop says, �Artisans in Kolkata get loans and other facilities from their government. Here you have no such thing. Why can�t we make the designer lamps here? Why do we have to import the lamps from Kolkata?�