Begin typing your search above and press return to search.

Brass metal industry of Barpeta in doldrums

By Correspondent

BARPETA, May 16 � At a time when the Assam Government is claiming creation of new job avenues, the brass metal-based cottage industry of Baniyakuchi and Haladhibari in Barpeta district is facing the threat of extinction, boding an ominous future for the people associated with it.

Unprecedented rise in prices of raw materials, scarcity of some materials, relatively low price of the products, intrusion of artificial products from outside the State and indiffrence of the Government have been cited as some of the reasons for the present state of affairs.

The artisans of Baniyakuchi and Haladhibari villages produce mostly sarais used in almost all the religious and social functions in the Assamese society. Though the history of this industry is not known properly, it is said that it has been prevelant since the Ahom era. Some pioneering artisans gave it a new shape during the 20th century.

Till a few years back, the craft was very popular and the economy of a vast area in Barpeta district was dependant on it. A number of families in the eastern part of Barpeta took up the occupation of making sarais as a hereditary business. Young people in large numbers were attracted by the industry, giving them ample scope for self-employment.

As young people came to be attached to the cottage industry, the product was also not limited to sarai. A number of decorative items were being produced. Decorative pieces like banana tree, peacock, tray, drums and other memorabilias and utensils are made by artisans according to the demands of customers.

As per information available, making of sarais out of brass metal was limited to Baniyakuchi and Haladhibari villages till a few years back. But some youths from the neighbouring villages also sought employment in the cottage industry. In course of time, they established their own ventures in homes. At present there are sarai-making cottage industries at Belbari, Barkapala, Baghmara, Singra, Gahiya , Amrikhowa and several other villages in Barpeta district.

But an industry, which provided employment to thousands of families and determined the economy of a district in particular and the State as a whole, has begun to shrink rapidly, facing the threat of extinction.

The monopoly in the sale of raw materials used in the industry is cited as the main reason behind the misfortune of the industry.

Raw brass is reportedly available with only one businessman in Guwahati and the price is solely determined by him. As a result, the price of brass has risen 300 per cent during the last 10, rising from nearly Rs 100 to Rs 315 per kilogram. But the price of the finished product has not risen compatible with that of the price of the raw material. Consequently, the artisans have to suffer heavy financial losses, compelling a large number of them to abandon their hereditary profession.

Besides, zinc, copper and lac are some of the important ingredients for this industry and these materials are not available in the market according to the demand. Unscrupulous businessmen often take advantage of the shortage and sell these at very high prices.

Though the price of the raw brass and other ingredients are rising day by day, the price of the finished sarai has not risen proportionately. Thus the poor artisans have been deprived of their dues and have been facing acute financial problems. Some have already abandoned the work in search of other jobs and the new generation is not at all attracted towards it anymore.

To add to the woes, sarais built of some substandard materials are being imported from outside the State which seem to be attractive as they are made by machines and sold at relatively low prices.

The State Government has assured that lakhs of new jobs will be created every year, but it has little time to ponder over the matter. It has neither helped this sick industry, nor has it done anything to protect and preserve it.

A number of senior artisans lamented that they have not received any assistance from the Government till date. The only help it provided was in the form of a few aluminium sheets as relief for the floods in 2004 which were given six years late.

The devastating flood, which destroyed a number of working sheds of the brass metal units, occurred in 2004 and the aluminium sheets to erect the rooftops wre distributed in January, 2010. This not only shows the indifference of the Government towards an indigenous cottage industry but also the lack of awareness about unemployment in the State, observers feel.

The poor artisans point out that unless the governments in Dispur and Delhi come forward to help them, especially in the supply of raw materials at subsidised rates, and assist in the marketing at reasonable prices, the prestigious sarai in the Assamese society will simply vanish.

Next Story
Similar Posts
Brass metal industry of Barpeta in doldrums

BARPETA, May 16 � At a time when the Assam Government is claiming creation of new job avenues, the brass metal-based cottage industry of Baniyakuchi and Haladhibari in Barpeta district is facing the threat of extinction, boding an ominous future for the people associated with it.

Unprecedented rise in prices of raw materials, scarcity of some materials, relatively low price of the products, intrusion of artificial products from outside the State and indiffrence of the Government have been cited as some of the reasons for the present state of affairs.

The artisans of Baniyakuchi and Haladhibari villages produce mostly sarais used in almost all the religious and social functions in the Assamese society. Though the history of this industry is not known properly, it is said that it has been prevelant since the Ahom era. Some pioneering artisans gave it a new shape during the 20th century.

Till a few years back, the craft was very popular and the economy of a vast area in Barpeta district was dependant on it. A number of families in the eastern part of Barpeta took up the occupation of making sarais as a hereditary business. Young people in large numbers were attracted by the industry, giving them ample scope for self-employment.

As young people came to be attached to the cottage industry, the product was also not limited to sarai. A number of decorative items were being produced. Decorative pieces like banana tree, peacock, tray, drums and other memorabilias and utensils are made by artisans according to the demands of customers.

As per information available, making of sarais out of brass metal was limited to Baniyakuchi and Haladhibari villages till a few years back. But some youths from the neighbouring villages also sought employment in the cottage industry. In course of time, they established their own ventures in homes. At present there are sarai-making cottage industries at Belbari, Barkapala, Baghmara, Singra, Gahiya , Amrikhowa and several other villages in Barpeta district.

But an industry, which provided employment to thousands of families and determined the economy of a district in particular and the State as a whole, has begun to shrink rapidly, facing the threat of extinction.

The monopoly in the sale of raw materials used in the industry is cited as the main reason behind the misfortune of the industry.

Raw brass is reportedly available with only one businessman in Guwahati and the price is solely determined by him. As a result, the price of brass has risen 300 per cent during the last 10, rising from nearly Rs 100 to Rs 315 per kilogram. But the price of the finished product has not risen compatible with that of the price of the raw material. Consequently, the artisans have to suffer heavy financial losses, compelling a large number of them to abandon their hereditary profession.

Besides, zinc, copper and lac are some of the important ingredients for this industry and these materials are not available in the market according to the demand. Unscrupulous businessmen often take advantage of the shortage and sell these at very high prices.

Though the price of the raw brass and other ingredients are rising day by day, the price of the finished sarai has not risen proportionately. Thus the poor artisans have been deprived of their dues and have been facing acute financial problems. Some have already abandoned the work in search of other jobs and the new generation is not at all attracted towards it anymore.

To add to the woes, sarais built of some substandard materials are being imported from outside the State which seem to be attractive as they are made by machines and sold at relatively low prices.

The State Government has assured that lakhs of new jobs will be created every year, but it has little time to ponder over the matter. It has neither helped this sick industry, nor has it done anything to protect and preserve it.

A number of senior artisans lamented that they have not received any assistance from the Government till date. The only help it provided was in the form of a few aluminium sheets as relief for the floods in 2004 which were given six years late.

The devastating flood, which destroyed a number of working sheds of the brass metal units, occurred in 2004 and the aluminium sheets to erect the rooftops wre distributed in January, 2010. This not only shows the indifference of the Government towards an indigenous cottage industry but also the lack of awareness about unemployment in the State, observers feel.

The poor artisans point out that unless the governments in Dispur and Delhi come forward to help them, especially in the supply of raw materials at subsidised rates, and assist in the marketing at reasonable prices, the prestigious sarai in the Assamese society will simply vanish.