GUWAHATI, Nov 9 � With a view to revive the fledgling handicraft sector and generate sustainable employment and income for craftsmen, the Assam Handicrafts Manufacturers Association has called upon the State government to initiate a number of measures including opening of a dedicated institute to train craftsmen and help getting absorbed in industry, reviewing the forestry policy to boost non-timber forest produce and for making raw material available to the local business houses easily.
Naveen Sood, secretary of the Association, said that the handicraft sector, particularly cane craft and bamboo craft, which was at one time flourishing in Assam, has of late taken a hit due to unavailability of raw materials and shortage of skilled craftsmen.
�Skilled craftsmen are getting rare day by day and the younger generation is no longer interested in pursuing the family tradition. Besides, access to raw materials is a big issue for the local industry as presence of middlemen ensure that produce are mostly sold to business houses outside the State and we have to re-purchase them from traders in places like Kerala and Kolkata,� he said.
Sood said that while the government has announced a number of measures to revive the sector not much has been achieved at the ground level.
�Arunachal�cane, which is the best quality in the market, is not available in Guwahati as middlemen see to it that the produce goes directly to big metros. So raw material prices are skyrocketing. Our input costs are rising and local customers are not happy to fetch finished products at a high rate,� he said.
Sood said the governments in Assam and the North East should impose restriction of raw materials outside the region.
�In addition, the State government should set up a dedicated institute for local crafts where people can be trained and there should be a tie-up with the industry so that once training is over the craftsmen are immediately placed in employment,� he said.
The Association also wants the government to frame a proper forest policy so that planting and growth of non-timber products can been promoted and local needs met.
Sood also called upon the Indian Railways to provide subsidy on handicraft products and remove the surcharge on volumetric products.
�Transportation is a major handicap for the sector due to rise in freight rates. This makes our products uncompetitive,� he said.
The Association said that with correct steps the handicraft sector in Assam can not only regain its past glory but also act as major source of revenue and for boosting local industry and employment generation.